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Can You Be Fired For Having A Disability In California?

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Disability Discrimination And Employment Law In California

Under California Employment Laws, people with disabilities are listed as a protected group. Employers cannot refuse to employ workers or fire current employees simply because of the employee's or potential employee's disability due to this law. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. Failure to comply with these protection laws may result in legal consequences.


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Disabilities as Defined by California Law


If you have a disability that impairs one or more major life activities, you are considered disabled in California. Physical or mental disabilities include developmental flaws, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental disabilities, and specific learning disabilities. They can be overt, such as using a wheelchair, using a cane, being disfigured, or having a bodily part amputated, or subtle, such as heart attacks, respiratory issues, depression, anxiety, stomach problems, sleep apnea, and so on.

An impairment or weakness must be perceived as long-term or permanent to be deemed a debilitating disorder. However, in the case of a temporary disability, it may be covered by the California Family Rights Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.

If your rights have been violated, you should consult with a pre-screened California Disability Lawyer for your workplace claims.


What Are Your Employment Rights?


A disabled person otherwise qualified (has the necessary education, training, or other credentials) to perform the essential work functions, with or without accommodations, shall be treated equally with all other candidates and/or employees.

Essential job functions are those that are required by the job. Critical job tasks for a firefighter, for example, include the ability to sprint, elevate, and hold. Pilots, on the other hand, require vision as a valuable job requirement. A person with a disability who cannot do these responsibilities is not otherwise eligible.

Discrimination Against Disabled People in California

Disabled workers are protected from job discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), implemented in 1974 in California. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal equivalent. "Disability," according to the ADA, is defined as a "physical or mental defect that severely limits one or more important living activities."

The FEHA, on the other hand, has a broader and more flexible definition, making filing a lawsuit easier. Under this law, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits a primary life function, such as working. The FEHA will classify stress, anxiety, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, frequent urination, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, more serious medical conditions like lupus, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are protected.

If you need more details specific to your case, contact an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles to analyze and guide the progress of your case.


Disabled Employees Are Entitled To Accommodations In California


A tool, system, equipment, help, and/or adjustment of a non-essential job function that allows or facilitates the performance of essential job tasks by a disabled individual is referred to as an accommodation.


For the visually impaired, larger screen displays or electronic or manual readers, TTD aids for the deaf, sign language interpreters, modifications to facilities and workstations for wheelchair access, flexible schedules, telecommuting arrangements, use of animal assistants, consolidation of non-essential job tasks, and so on are some examples.


Do I Have To Disclose My Disability To My Employer?


In most cases, your employer cannot require you to disclose your disability status. However, employers can require information about your disability for the purposes of implementing reasonable accommodations.


What Are Reasonable Accommodations?

Reasonable accommodations are improvements or changes to a job or workplace that allow an employee or job applicant to effectively fulfill the essential functions. Appropriate accommodations have no impact on the job's core duties.


If a specific accommodation request is reasonable, it is determined by the situation and type of job. However, the accommodation should not be excessively costly or inconvenient for the business (undue hardship).

Here are a few instances of possible fair accommodations:

  • Changes or addition of workplace amenities. An employee who uses a wheelchair might need a higher workstation or a different travel path. Employees with PTSD may want separators or a more private workstation to reduce distractions.

  • Equipment or tools. Carpal tunnel syndrome may need a customized keyboard, phone headset, or speech recognition software for a worker. A deaf employee may require a text pager. Headphones may be needed for an employee who hears conversations or is easily distracted.

  • Scheduling adjustments. An employee who suffers from weariness or sleeps disturbance due to a medical condition may benefit from a part-time schedule.

  • Medication or therapy that requires time away from work. An employee receiving treatment may need to take time off work regularly to attend appointments.

  • Leave of absence. A disabled employee may require a leave of absence for medical treatments or operations and recover from a disability-related sickness.

  • Adjusting work responsibilities. An employee with a lifting restriction may need to delegate a role if it is not critical to the job.

  • Trainings. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another handicap that prevents them from concentrating or learning may require additional or advanced training to master the job.

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  • Adjusting supervision and management methods. A learning-disabled employee can ask for a change in communication methods, such as more face-to-face meetings or email reminders. An employee with a mental health issue may need different supervisory tactics, such as constructive and negative feedback, more frequent performance appraisals, and more extensive instruction or work assignments.

  • Coaches. A visually impaired employee can request that a job coach be brought to the job site to learn how to navigate the workplace.

  • Policy change. An employee with insulin-dependent diabetes may require additional breaks or permission to eat during the day to test blood sugar or give insulin.

  • Reassigning to a different location. Employees who cannot execute the essential job tasks of their current post may request a transfer to an available position for which they are qualified.

If an employer refuses to give you accommodations, it might affect your overall performance at work. If the discrimination persists, you should contact a prescreened California Disability Lawyer.


Accommodations for Short-Term Disability

Temporary work accommodations allow injured or sick workers to continue working while recovering by providing a different or alternative work assignment for a set length of time, usually up to 90 days, and are evaluated individually. A Short Term Disability Lawyer in California knows their way around getting the benefits you need to be able to do your job while you recover,

Accommodations for Long-Term/Permanent Disability

Employees with disabilities that persist for six months or more are given ongoing/permanent accommodations to fulfill the essential responsibilities of their jobs. If you're having issues with your benefits and accommodations, contact a long term disability lawyer in California ASAP.

What Are The Obligations of an Employer?

Employers must make reasonable accommodations. However, they are not compelled to provide an employee's preferred accommodations; instead, they must provide accommodations that do not cause an undue financial or operational burden on the employer.

The financial ability of the employer and the expense, difficulty, and disturbance connected with the accommodation all play a role in assessing whether or not the accommodation is appropriate.

When an employer learns about an employee's impairment and/or any occupational challenges related to the disability, the law requires that the employer and the employee engage in a good-faith interactive method to discuss feasible adjustments. An employer who refuses to engage in a good-faith interactive approach is breaking the law and may be liable for damages.

As a result, employees must engage in the good faith accommodation phase. As part of the fair accommodation procedure, an employer may require medical certification of the employee's condition and any attempts to consult with the employee's medical professionals to determine what would be a suitable accommodation. Employees who decline to participate in a good-faith interactive method and are fired as a result have no legal recourse.

The courts investigate who is to blame if there is a breakdown in the interactive phase that ends in discharge or demotion. As a result, it's critical to document your participation in every situation when you're involved in an accommodation phase. A copy of this documentation should be given to your manager or HR.

Employers cannot discriminate against current or potential employees because of a disability. A pre-employment questionnaire does not include a question concerning your impairment. You'll be asked if you require special accommodations if you're offered a position.

An employer can refuse to hire you or fire you if your illness creates a reasonable health danger to others. For example, it has been considered legal to prohibit epileptics who suffer seizures from operating buses, trains, and other vehicles because of actual health risks. On the other hand, these hazards must be genuine, not just hypothetical.

That said, if your employer fails to hold up their responsibility, you have the right to hire a Disability Lawyer in California to help you seek accountability.


How To Request Accommodations In California?


When you inform your boss you're disabled; you have a reasonable expectation that they will keep your medical data private and only discuss them with those who need to work with you in good faith or need accommodation.

It is prohibited to retaliate against a worker who requests reasonable accommodations. Put your feelings in writing and file a report with your manager and/or human resources if you think you have been retaliated against.

To be covered under the ADA/FEHA, you must notify your condition to at least one person who serves the employer, such as a supervisor or human resource person. Although you are not needed to divulge every detail about your health, you must offer enough information to show that you have a "disability" and require accommodations under the law. To be safe, use language such as "disability," "impairment," "limited," "important life events," and "accommodation."

The disclosure of a disability to a potential employer is a personal choice. Employees who are considering making such disclosure should consider the following costs and benefits:

  1. You'll need a location to stay to complete the task.

  2. to avoid being punished or terminated (if you are not accommodated)

  3. To protect one's health, one must make accommodations.

  4. There's a chance of stigma and abuse.

  5. There's a chance you'll lose your job or be passed over for a promotion.

  6. The risk of losing one's right to privacy.

  7. Possibility of a more efficient and helpful work environment.

Can Your Boss Ask About Your Disability?


Employers are forbidden from asking about your health or requiring a medical examination unless the questions or inquiries are related to your job and are compatible with business needs. Therefore, even if you appear unwell or ill, an employer cannot ask medical questions unless there is a job-related justification.

Under the following circumstances, specific medical studies may be justified. Otherwise, it's unlikely that your boss will have access to your medical records:

  1. If an employee requires accommodation, but the impairment or need is not immediately apparent, the employer may obtain reasonable medical evidence demonstrating the employee's right to accommodation. Health records must be kept in a separate, confidential medical file.

  2. If an employer has a reasonable belief or suspicion that a disability may hinder an employee's ability to execute the job's essential tasks, they can ask limited medical inquiries or require a medical examination.

  3. If an employer has a reasonable belief or suspicion that an employee's impairment poses direct harm to the health or safety of others. In that circumstances, the employer can ask specific medical questions or require a medical examination.

  4. To evaluate its workers' compensation benefits, an employer might ask limited medical questions or request a medical examination if an employee suffers a work-related injury. Even if the request for medical information or documentation is made for a professional reason, it must be reasonable and pertinent to the case. In addition, no request should be made that goes beyond the employer's requirement to assess the disability's impact. Most importantly, all medical records collected by the employer must be kept private and distinct from the employee's regular file.

Alcoholism and Opioid Addiction and Disability Law


Alcoholism and opioid abuse are both diseases that are legally recognized. However, using alcohol or narcotics at work, such as being drunk or high on drugs, missing work, or arriving late due to a hangover or binge, is not an acceptable accommodation and can result in immediate termination. Treatment for alcoholism or opiate addiction can be regarded as a reasonable accommodation.

The key is to get help before you're fired for your activities. An employer cannot discriminate against or threaten them because they are recovering alcoholics or opiate addicts. As a result, an employer who knows that an employee attends AA or NA meetings is prohibited from demoting, firing, or otherwise discriminating against the employee based on their status as a recovering alcoholic or addict. Permission to attend meetings or counseling sessions can be a good compromise.

The Right To Take Leaves: FMLA and the CRFA

Anyone, at any time, can become impaired, and those who do may suffer heightened symptoms. However, if an employee's condition is severe enough to prevent them from working, they will be entitled to a work leave without jeopardizing their job.

The FMLA and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) guarantee unpaid leave to qualified employees. During this time, people keep their health benefits and employment status. FMLA/CFRA can be used for the following purposes:

  • You have a severe medical condition.

  • A parent, infant, spouse, or domestic partner who needs medical help due to sickness.

  • Childbirth

  • Adoption of a new foster child

When a worker returns to work from FMLA, they must be returned to their prior position or given new employment comparable in location, tasks, hours, abilities, and salary, including benefits. Loss of wages, benefits, or other desirable work characteristics could be illegal retribution.

What to Do If You've Been Unfairly Treated?


Employee handbooks at many companies include anti-discrimination and harassment provisions. They may also require you to request accommodations and/or report abuse, bias, and/or retribution via a clear communication channel.

You must follow these procedures and preserve a written record of your actions. If these procedures are not followed, the legal right to seek damages, such as punitive damages, may be denied. To protect your rights, you only have a limited period to act.

What Should You Do If You've Been Discriminated Because Of Your Disabilities?

Start by addressing the situation at work, such as whether your boss or coworkers discriminate against you due to your impairments. This could be with a supervisor or with the HR department. If you're considering retaliation, consult a California Employment Attorney first. They will review your employment rights with you and advise you on the best course of action.

It's critical to maintain records of any harassment or discrimination. The dates, times, and locations of the violence or bias should be included in these notes. Names of those involved should also be included. In addition, keep track of emails, written letters, and any evidence that supports your discrimination claim.


A person must submit an administrative claim with the California Department of Equal Employment and Housing to execute the FEHA rules. The department will then look into a probable case of discrimination or harassment. Employees have one year from the date of discrimination in the workplace to file a complaint against disability discrimination.

You can take the issue to an administrative hearing for damages once the agency reviews the complaint and determines violations. You can also take your matter to federal court and have it heard by a judge or jury.

How Do You Prove Workplace Discrimination?

An employee must claim the following to file a disability discrimination complaint in California:

  1. Their boss exposed them to discriminatory hiring practices.

  2. The fact that they were disabled had a significant role in the actions conducted against them.

  3. As a result of the employer's activities, the employee was hurt.

Permanent employment choices, such as termination or demotion, are examples of adverse work actions. A pattern of activity that, when considered together, is seen to affect an employee's terms or privileges is known as an adverse job action.


Adverse job actions are likely to compromise an otherwise qualified employee's job performance and their possibilities for advancement and promotion in their chosen field.


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On the other hand, acts that just irritate an employee are not deemed unprofessional behavior. For example, when an employer discovers an employee is gay and fires him immediately away, this is critical. However, as previously stated, such steps are not required to be carried out to this level.

Finally, a crucial motivating component is an underlying motivation for initiating unpleasant employment action in the first place. This could be considered discriminatory.

Wrongful Termination Due To Disability Discrimination In California

You might be able to file a wrongful termination claim if you were fired from a job because of your disability. The California Fair Housing and Employment Act prohibits discrimination based on disability or disabled people. Therefore, if you were fired because of your impairments, you could pursue a case for wrongful termination.

Can You Sue For Getting Fired?


Employment in California is mainly on an at-will basis. This means that you can be fired anytime (even without cause). In some cases, however, the termination may be considered illegal, and you have the right to sue them for.


For our purposes, disability status is a protected characteristic. So, if you were fired for your protected characteristic, then it is considered illegal in California.

What is a Constructive Dismissal Claim?


Employees may not be fired immediately, but they may be forced to labor under inhumane conditions for an unethical motive or violating public policy. This could give the impression that the employee was compelled to resign.

If you have ever been harassed or discriminated against because of your disability, you will have enough grounds to submit a wrongful termination claim alleging constructive dismissal (in violation of public policy and/or the FEHA).

You must show in court that the defendant (or several defendants) forced you to labor in an unpleasant atmosphere. It was so awful that any sane person in your shoes would have had no choice but to resign. To prove constructive dismissal, you must show that the employer (or those involved) purposefully started or allowed those conditions and that you quit because of those conditions.

When you're in a hostile work environment, contact a California Employment Attorney first before making any employment decisions. How you handle your employment at this time can significantly affect your chances of a wrongful termination claim.

Should You File a Retaliation Lawsuit?


Under federal or California law, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee who takes a protected action, such as filing a discrimination complaint. This is codified in California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and numerous federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII.

If you believe you have been harassed due to submitting a discrimination complaint with HR, filing a charge with the EEOC or the DFEH, or supporting others who have filed a complaint, you should obtain legal guidance from a Disability Lawyer in California.

What Are the Signs of Workplace Retaliation?

An employer is prohibited to discriminate against an employee who files a complaint under the FEHA. In most circumstances, FEHA provides workers with greater protections than Title VII, but both have sections prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activities.


This means that if you reported your employer for discriminating against you for your disabilities, and they fired, demoted, or suspended you as a form of punishment or revenge, it is considered a workplace retaliation case.

Retaliation is defined as a series of hostile acts against employees due to them exercising a protected right. Materiality can be used to measure and analyze workplace misconduct and determine future reimbursable damages. It's safe to assume that the alleged retaliation significantly impacted your working conditions.

Proving a Retaliation Claim

To claim retaliation, you must show that you filed a discrimination case, that you were mistreated, and that the adverse employment action was causally linked to your complaint filing.

To be considered a protected activity, the complaint does not have to be lodged in writing.

You must inform your manager or HR as soon as filing a report. It's generally a good idea to get some advice on the importance of your statements. It will help if you can prove that the discriminatory incidents you're referencing are, in fact, illegal under the law.

Find A Prescreened Disability Lawyer in California Near You


Work discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination cases need much-organized work and an understanding of the law. Hiring a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer will ease the difficulties you are already experiencing in the workplace.


1000Attorneys.com is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to someone that best suits your case. Contact us on our 24/7 lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999 or complete our inquiry submission form for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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