Disabled Employees and Workplace Discrimination
Updated: Apr 26
Find Employment Lawyers for Discrimination of Disabled Employees
Employees in California are shielded from discrimination and abuse based on real or perceived disability. The Law Offices of Daniel Feder, a San Francisco disability discrimination law firm, has helped hundreds of disabled people gain access and compensation after being handled unfairly.
Suppose you have a disability or a medical illness, and your employer refuses to make adequate accommodations or treats you unfairly because of your disability. In that case, you will be entitled to file a legal claim for compensation.
What Is Considered a Disability in California?
Disability discrimination laws in California classify "disabilities" into three categories: physical, mental, and medical conditions. However, what follows is broad. What constitutes a disability is a complex issue that non-lawyers find difficult to address.
Any physiological illness, impairment, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that affects one or more body systems and restricts a significant life function is referred to as a "physical disability."
Limiting "a major life activity" means "making the major life activity impossible to accomplish." This can include chronic or episodic illnesses (HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, diabetes, heart disease, and so on) as well as physical deficiencies (broken bones, hypertension, polio, and so on) as well as pregnancy-related disabilities. Unfortunately, unless pain limits the major life activity, it does not qualify as a disability. If your condition isn't listed above, you can consult with a disability discrimination lawyer because the list is, at best incomplete.
A "mental disability" is defined as any mental or psychological disease or condition that restricts a major life function, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or particular learning disabilities.
Autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, psychiatric depression, mental illness, schizophrenia, particular learning disabilities, and other chronic or episodic conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder are also forms of mental disabilities.
Any health disorder related to or associated with a cancer diagnosis, a record or history of cancer, or genetic features is referred to as a "medical condition."
When a person has a gene or inherited trait that is linked to a statistically increased risk of developing a disease or disorder, this is referred to as genetic characteristics.
The Interactive Method and Fair Accommodations
When a request for fair accommodation is made in California, the legislation allows employers to participate in an interactive process. When it becomes obvious that an employee needs fair accommodation, the employer must participate in the interactive process.
The collaborative process starts with a conversation about an employee's disability and the accommodations the employee may need to do his or her job. If you're thinking about requesting accommodations, it's a good idea to start by consulting your employee handbook.
In most cases, organizations would have processes in place to begin the interactive phase. It's also a good idea to see a doctor so that an employee's impairment can be recorded. Seeing a doctor will also help the employee gain a better understanding of his or her condition, as well as the best accommodations to make.
Reasonable accommodations may take a variety of forms, depending on the nature of the disability, such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, hearing loss, depression, back injury, or another illness. Among the options for accommodation are:
Ergonomically designed chair
Keyboard with an ergonomic style
Limits about how much time you can spend sitting or standing
Additional time to finish assignments
Phones with hearing aids
Rest intervals that are longe
Transferring to a different department is an option.
Change to a morning or evening shift
Voice recognition program
Suppose you have a disability and your employer refuses to accept your request for fair accommodations. In that case, you can consult an Employment Attorney to review your case and determine if legal action is necessary.
Understanding Discrimination And Disability Laws
Employees with disabilities are covered by both California and federal law. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the name of the federal legislation (ADA). Its definition of a disability and accommodations standards extend to all employers of a certain scale. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the state's version of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also allows eligible employers to make fair accommodations to assist disabled workers in performing their work.
It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a disabled employee while making decisions about promotions, raises, medical leave, and termination under the ADA and the FEHA. These actions are illegal and should not be tolerated. Your employer will continue to discriminate against you if you don't speak up for your rights as a disabled individual.
These guidelines are confusing. Employers also seek out grey areas in order to protect themselves against allegations of disability discrimination. They say they were unaware of the employee's disability, that the employee's doctor had not requested changed duties, and that their conduct had nothing to do with the employee's disability. Both of these are typically ruses to rob you of your rights.
The California Fair Housing and Jobs Act (California Fair Housing and Employment Act
Discrimination and sexual abuse are banned in California under the Equal Jobs and Housing Act (FEHA). Employer retaliation and abuse are prohibited under the FEHA when an employee participates in constitutionally protected activity (including filing a discrimination or harassment lawsuit or testifying or engaging in a workplace investigation). A California employee must have a reasonable belief that the workplace harassment or discrimination he or she opposes is illegal conduct prohibited by the FEHA to qualify as legally protected actions. Furthermore, the retaliation by the employer must have a material impact on the worker's terms and conditions of employment.
Serving in the armed forces, demanding extra pay or other benefits, refusing to engage in criminal activity, or requesting leave under the California Family Rights Act or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act are all acts that are shielded from retaliation and discharge under California workplace discrimination law.
Laws on Workplace Discrimination
Although the government typically allows employers and companies to choose who they should fire and why, the employer cannot pick you out for unequal treatment, including termination, because of a disability.
In the workplace, disabled persons have a number of important legal rights. Employers, for example, are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to:
In certain cases, employers are prohibited from dismissing or refusing to recruit workers because of their disability.
Disabled persons must be provided with adequate accommodations.
Employers are forbidden from refusing to promote workers who have been injured or disabled.
In certain cases, employers are forbidden from refusing short-term disability leave and benefits.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to all applicants and workers, forbids discrimination against eligible persons with disabilities. The act covers disabilities that prohibit anyone from seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, studying, caring for themselves, or performing manual tasks.
Filing a Discrimination Claim in California
A discrimination lawsuit in California may be filed with either the state administrative agency, the California Department of Fair Jobs and Housing (DFEH), or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (EEOC). The two agencies have a "job-sharing arrangement," which means they work together to process claims. It is not appropriate to file a claim with both agencies if you inform one of them that you want them to "cross-file" the claim with the other.
Few smaller employers are protected by the California anti-discrimination act, which is not covered by federal legislation. As a consequence, if your organization has between 5 and 14 employees (or one or more for discrimination claims), you can register with the DFEH, as the EEOC only enforces federal legislation that applies to businesses with 15 or more employees (20 or more employees for age discrimination claims). You can file with either agency if your company has 15 or more employees (20 or more for age claims).
What happens after you file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?
The EEOC will give you a copy of your payment along with your charge number once it has been filed. The EEOC will also submit a note and a copy of the fee to the employer within 10 days. At that point, the EEOC can take one of the following actions:
Request that both you and your boss participate in a mediation program.
Request that your employer responds to your charge in writing and answer any questions you may have about your petition, after which your charge will be assigned to an investigator.
If you didn't file your complaint in a timely manner or if the EEOC doesn't have jurisdiction, your claim will be dismissed.
The EEOC can interview witnesses and gather documents if they decide to investigate your complaint. They will notify you and your employer of the results until the investigation is finished. If the EEOC agrees that there was no prejudice, you will obtain a "Notice of Right to Sue." This notice authorizes you to file a civil case in a court of law. If the EEOC finds that discrimination happened, they will work with the employer to negotiate a voluntary settlement.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will be referred to the EEOC's legal team (or, in some cases, the Department of Justice), which will determine whether or not to file a lawsuit. The EEOC will issue you a "Notice of Right to Sue" if they decide not to file a complaint.
The length of the investigation is determined by a variety of factors, including the amount of data that must be collected and analyzed. The EEOC investigates a fee for nearly 6 months on average. Mediation will also speed up the resolution of a charge (usually in less than 3 months).
In California, how do I file a lawsuit?
It might not be appropriate to employ a Employment Attorney or file a complaint if the case is effectively resolved by an administrative agency. The administrative agency may ask you to sign a release of your legal claims as part of resolving your case. If the DFEH or the EEOC is unable to settle your case, you can be forced to take your case to court.
After first heading to the EEOC, as mentioned above, a federal workplace discrimination lawsuit cannot be heard in court, and the EEOC dismisses the claim. This is referred to as "administrative solution fatigue." Similarly, you must register with the DFEH before filing a complaint based on your state discrimination charge.
Compensation (emotional distress and suffering) and punitive damages (damages that punish the employer) are not limited or capped under California statute, although they are capped under federal law. Many California employment lawyers choose to prosecute workplace discrimination lawsuits in state court under state law only because state law is more favorable than federal law in many ways, including recoverable damages, attorney's fees, burdens of evidence, and special employer defenses. Most cases, however, may be brought in state or federal court and under state or federal statute.
Before you can file a lawsuit based on your federal claim, the EEOC must first issue a document known as a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" or "Notice of Right to Sue." You have 90 days from the day you receive the notice to file a complaint in federal or state court based on your federal discrimination allegation. When you receive the notice, make a note of the date. To continue with filing your California lawsuit, you may also submit a similar "right-to-sue" letter from DFEH. Within one year of the DFEH dismissal, you must file a complaint based on your state discrimination allegation.
The "statute of limitations" is the legal term for these time limits. If you've got one of these agency dismissal letters, you can speak with an Employment Attorney right away. If you do not file your case by the deadline, you will forfeit your right to file a discrimination lawsuit.
What services do Disability Discrimination Lawyers provide to their clients?
The media has misled the public's perception of what lawyers do in the United States. This is also valid for disability discrimination lawyers. In the disability discrimination in the workplace lawsuit, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. So, what does your disability discrimination lawyer do in between your meetings with him?
Once you and your disability discrimination lawyers have agreed to work together and signed all of the papers, they will start gathering the records and evidence you have, such as a list of events, any text messages, emails, or other written correspondence, and your employee file (if you have it).
Your labor lawyer will then plan and send a "complaint" to the judge, which will be used to file the case with the court. This lawsuit details the basic facts of the case, including who perpetrated the wrongdoings, what the wrongdoings were, and how much damage was caused.
If the case is filed, the disability discrimination lawyers have a certain amount of time to "serve" the complaint on your boss. Now it's up to your boss to respond to the complaint with a "response." About this point, the boss will most likely attempt to get the complaint dismissed. The "discovery" process starts after your Employment Attorney defeats these "demurrers."
Your disability discrimination lawyers and the opposing attorney share different forms of facts during the discovery process. There are questions selected by your counsel (special interrogatories), questions that the state is expected to answer (form interrogatories), demands for the other party to accept those evidence, and requests for document development (such as emails, business records, etc.). Depositions are also taken during this time. Depositions are sworn interviews that your lawyer will accompany you to.
After discovery, the disability discrimination lawyer, as well as opposing counsel, would have a clear understanding of their case, which is when most settlements take place. Both lawyers may engage in employment mediation and mandatory arbitration sessions with a judge to decide whether a pre-trial settlement is feasible. Otherwise, the case will be taken to trial.
For public bodies, the deadlines are different. The statute of limitations in such cases could be as short as six months! As a result, it's important that you get in touch with disability discrimination lawyers as soon as possible.
The Statute of Limitations for An Employment Discrimination Claim
You (or your Employment Attorney) usually have one year from the date of termination to receive a right-to-sue letter. Normally, your solicitor can obtain this for you, but notify your lawyer if you already have one. You have one year from the day you receive a right-to-sue letter to file your complaint in court or arbitration.
Discrimination based on affiliation is prohibited in California.
Disability discrimination includes discrimination against disabled people and discrimination based on an individual's relationship with a disabled person at work or with a disabled loved one or family member. As a result of the employer's discrimination or abuse, you could be dismissed, demoted, or refused a promotion.
Employees who work with a "qualified person" are covered by federal and state discrimination laws. An eligible person is someone who is protected from discrimination, including disability rights, under the law.
Discrimination based on a disabled person's association usually takes three types, all of which have been declared unconstitutional by the courts:
Expense. You face retaliation, such as termination, as a result of the disabled person's expense. This normally applies to a disabled relative who increases the cost of a health or insurance package.
Discrimination by association. You are treated unfairly at work because you work for someone who has a disability. This category has been recognized in situations where discrimination has arisen from working with another employee who has an HIV-related disability.
Distraction. You could have a lawsuit against your employer if your relationship with an employee who has a qualifying disability causes you to be distracted from your job.
What Damages Will I Recover?
It's difficult to provide a definite answer to this question. When an employee sues a corporation, there are several factors to consider, and a lot can happen between the time you file a lawsuit and the time you reach a settlement. In a disability discrimination case, however, there are several forms of damages that an individual may be entitled to recover, which can be addressed in general terms.
Lost Wages. If an employer refuses to accept a disabled employee and the employee is fired, lost wages could be a factor to consider. The annual pay or hourly wage of the fired employee is used to measure lost wages. For example, if a disabled employee receives $75,000 per year at the time of termination and has been unable to find employment for three years, he or she will be able to recover $225,000 in missed wages.
Pain and Suffering. Determining the number of damages a worker earns as a result of pain and suffering is complicated. The impact of discrimination on an employee's mental and physical health is usually taken into account by a jury or judge. Anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other problems may all lead to a person's pain and suffering. The legislation in California attempts to account for both past and future pain.
Punitive Damages. These are uncommon. They are intended to sanction businesses that have behaved inappropriately in the past and discourage them and others from doing so in the future. An employee must prove that the employer acted with deceit, malice, or oppression in order to recover these forms of damages. Although such damages are uncommon, they often result in multi-million-dollar awards.
Attorney Fees. In discrimination/harassment cases, attorney fees are often recoverable (based on the amount of time your Employment Attorney spends working on the case.)
Suppose your disability discrimination lawyer wins your case. In that case, you could be entitled to compensation for the salaries you would have received if you hadn't been discriminated against because of your disability. For example, if your annual salary was $50,000 and you were fired due to a disability, you would be entitled to regain the amount of money you would have received if the wrongful termination had not happened.
Pain and suffering (also known as "emotional distress") is another type of compensation you might be entitled to obtain as a result of disability discrimination in the employment situation. Anxiety, depression, and emotional suffering are some of the damages that can be compensated for. Disability discrimination laws attempt to put you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had not occurred, and therefore can be used to compensate you for past and potential emotional distress.
The right to recover attorney's fees is one of the most powerful provisions in disability discrimination in the employment allegation. California lawmakers understood that missed income and mental distress awards could be negligible, so they added this to allow disability discrimination lawyers to take cases.
Facing Retaliation at the Workplace
Retaliation can take many forms, but you might be able to spot it with these few examples:
Unfairly negative performance evaluations
Working conditions that are unacceptable
Opportunities for advancement have been denied
Refusal to have fair benefits
Assignment relocation that isn't needed
Unfavorable work experience
Our pre-screened Los Angeles Labor Lawyers can analyze your situation, answer your questions and concerns, and begin implementing an effective legal plan during your free initial case review.
What's the Difference Between a Retaliation Case, Wrongful Termination Case, and a Whistleblower Case?
From the perspective of a non-lawyer, these three fields of law are easily misunderstood. Here's a brief rundown of the distinctions. If you want more detail, follow the links to the specific tab, where you'll find a wealth of pertinent information.
As mentioned previously, retaliation usually entails firing an employee for speaking out against discrimination, harassment, or patient violence. Wrongful termination may have a wide range of consequences. A wrongful termination case entails a dismissal due to a violation of "public policy." This may involve being fired for complaining about dangerous working conditions or coworker threats of abuse. The retaliation laws in California will not apply to any of these situations.
A case involving a whistleblower is also unique. A whistleblower case usually requires a particular regulation, such as Labor Code 1102.5 (refusing to violate the law or reporting a violation of the law) or Health & Safety Code 1278.5 (refusing to violate the law or reporting a violation of the law) (complaining about patient safety). California has a number of activities that are protected.
When an employer takes a negative employment action against an employee as a result of the employee engaging in a legally protected operation, this is known as workplace retaliation.
There are several things that are "protected" under California law, including:
Making a claim for workers' compensation
Hazardous protection or health issues should be reported.
Defending against sexual assault
Discrimination in the workplace should be recorded.
Having a conversation with your boss or coworkers about your pay
Taking a leave of absence from work to serve on a jury
Using the California Labor Commissioner to file a salary petition
Taking sick leave to care for a sick family member
Notification of a failure to accommodate an impairment
Taking part in a specific political activity
Demonstrating retaliation in the Workplace
How to Prove Workplace Retaliation
While there are laws protecting employees from retaliation for protected conduct, proving a workplace retaliation allegation can be challenging.
To establish an argument of workplace retaliation, you must demonstrate that:
You were subjected to concrete retaliatory action at work.
You were doing a protected activity.
Your participation in the protected activity is the key reason for the adverse employment action.
Keeping good records and working with an experienced employment lawyer are the two most important factors in creating a connection between your employer's retaliatory behavior and your participation in the particular protected operation. Our Employment Lawyers are here to assist you at any step in developing a strategic case to meet your legal objectives.
If You Suspect Workplace Retaliation, What Do You Do?
If you've been a target of workplace retaliation, make sure you're doing whatever you can to defend your rights.
Keep track. Keep track of any incident relating to your case, including emails, written notes, messages, performance reports, internal memos, and other information that can be included in your case from the moment you believe it. Even verbal remarks should be written down and saved for future reference.
Find Company Employment Handbook. Several businesses have a handbook that explains how to deal with discrimination and abuse on the job. File a complaint with the employer to give them an opportunity to rectify the situation and to get the complaint on file.
Consult an Employment Lawyers. It is strongly advised that you speak with an Employment Attorney about your issues in order to fully understand your rights and how to proceed with your case. Your lawyer will be able to clarify the legal process to you and walk you through the next steps.
Retaliation Claim Damages
Economic Losses. If you win your case at trial, you will be able to recover economic damages, which are the wages you would have received if you hadn't been dismissed. For example, if you were making $70,000 a year and were fired because you spoke out against sexual assault, you would be able to reclaim the money you would have received if you hadn't been fired.
Your Emotional Distress. This involves the pain and misery you have experienced as a result of the illegal retaliation. Depression and mental suffering are two examples of emotional distress losses. Sleeplessness, uncontrollable weeping, stress, diarrhea, and a lack of enjoyment of life are common complaints. You must be able to explain the damages in order to prove them. It is very beneficial if you see a therapist and have your symptoms reported.
Fees for Attorneys. You may be able to recover the attorney's fees in certain retaliation cases. This is a big hammer and a big opportunity for defendants to resolve these cases.
Punitive Damages. To be awarded punitive damages in a retaliation case, you must prove that the employer behaved with oppression, deceit, or malice. This is a particularly difficult quality to achieve. And if you win, Supreme Court decisions restrict the amount of money you can spend on them.
What is the Retaliation Lawsuit Statute of Limitations?
In most cases, you have one year from the date of the retaliatory act (which is normally a termination or demotion) to obtain a right to sue letter from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You have one year to file your case in state or federal court after that. This right-to-sue letter is usually obtained by your counsel on your behalf. Employees in public institutions have a different statute of limitations. Since the statute of limitations can be as limited as six months in certain cases, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible after being retaliated against.
What if Retaliation Leads to Wrongful Termination?
And though most jobs are "at-will," there are circumstances under which firing an employee may be illegal under California or federal law. For example, an employee's job may not be terminated for the following reasons:
Filing a workers' compensation claim, taking family leave, using sick days, or taking meal or rest breaks are all examples of constitutionally covered rights.
In retaliation for disclosing a workplace violation that the employee claimed was illegal under local, state, or federal law.
Serving on a jury or in the military is an example of a mandatory responsibility.
Whistleblowing or refusing to participate in criminal activities are also examples of whistleblowing.
Discrimination is based on a protected characteristic of an employee, such as ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual preference, or political affiliation.
Valid Reasons for Termination
You could have a legal argument against your employer if you were fired for one of the reasons mentioned above. It's important to keep in mind, though, that not all terminations are illegal. Termination can be justified for a variety of reasons, including:
Inadequate efficiency, productivity, or job quality
Disobedience of corporate policies or insubordination
Issues with attendance
Harassment, intimidation, or threats are all examples of harassment.
Layoffs in general
Gathering Proof of Evidence
An employer that fires an employee for a cause that is illegal is unlikely to say so. To escape future liability, some companies use probationary periods for new hires. Employees who say they were fired unlawfully must find evidence that the employer's justification for terminating them was both unlawful and a "substantial motivating factor" for the firing. Comments made by the boss or manager involved that indicate a bias may be used as evidence.
Here are some suggestions for gathering evidence:
Keeping track of written proof, such as emails, text messages, and Slack messages
Obtaining relevant documents, such as pay stubs, performance reviews, or summary notes
Obtaining the names and contact details of all possible witnesses who might have witnessed any criminal activity
An employee can also prove misconduct if they can demonstrate that their employer handled them differently than another employee who did the same thing. For instance, an employer can fire an African American employee for breaking a workplace rule, but non-African American employees who broke the same rule in similar circumstances are not fired. This could bolster the employee's argument that the termination was motivated by race.
What is the California Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination?
A statute of limitations is the amount of time an individual has to file a complaint after an incident has occurred. You are normally unable to make a lawsuit after this time period has passed. Since the statute of limitations varies depending on the type of lawsuit you file, you should speak with an experienced Employment Attorney as soon as possible if you think you were wrongfully terminated.
Find an Employment Law Attorney in Los Angeles
Work discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination cases need a lot of organized work and understanding of the law. Hiring an Employment Lawyer will ease the difficulties you are already experiencing in the workplace. Your Employment Attorney will be able to help you take the next steps for your Employment claims.
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