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Rand L. Stephens & Richard Koss

What Are My Rights as a Disabled Person in California?

Lawyer is holding Disability Discrimination Act DDA.

California state and federal laws grant protections for disabled workers. Disabled workers have the right to be free from discrimination, unequal treatment, or improper termination. Read on for an explanation of your rights as a disabled worker in California, and call a knowledgeable California disability discrimination lawyer with any questions or for help with an employment-related matter.

Freedom from Discrimination

Under the federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and California laws like the Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1980 (FEHA), Disabled Persons Act, and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, discrimination against otherwise qualified disabled California workers is illegal. The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments, while FEHA applies to employers of five or more employees. The federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensures that the prohibition against disability discrimination also applies to federal employers. Under the laws, disability means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Qualified employees are people who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

The law requires that disabled employees are given the same opportunities for work, advancement, pay, and other benefits as workers without a disability. Discrimination can take the form of hiring discrepancies, firing disabled workers, demoting workers, providing unequal payment or uneven job opportunities for disabled employees, granting unequal access to facilities, or failing to discuss or provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. Discrimination can be based on actual or perceived disability and includes both physical and mental disabilities. A disability may mean physiological conditions or limitations such as blindness or paraplegia, mental conditions such as clinical depression, and other medical conditions such as cancer or HIV/AIDS. Not every medical condition qualifies for disability protection, however.

Reasonable Accommodation

California law requires that employers make reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. Accommodation allows disabled workers to perform the same function as employees without a disability. Reasonable accommodation may include, for example, providing wheelchair-accessible restrooms, modifying furniture, or providing other modified equipment or devices. Reasonable accommodation may even include permitting an employee to work remotely, where doing so would not hinder them in performing their workplace duties.

Employers do not need to provide accommodations that would cause the employer “undue hardship.” Undue hardship means an action that would require “significant difficulty or expense.” California courts will evaluate a handful of factors to assess an employer’s claim of undue hardship, including but not limited to the nature and cost of the accommodation needed, the overall financial resources of the employer, and the nature of the facility at issue.

Help with Disability Discrimination and other California Employment Law Issues

If you are a San Francisco employee or employer in need of advice or representation concerning retaliation, workplace discrimination, or other California labor law issues, contact the Richard Koss Bay Area employment law attorneys at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula, or 925-757-1700 in the East Bay.

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