What is disability discrimination?
Disability discrimination is the mistreatment of an employee because of a physical or mental disability. California laws forbid employers with five or more employees to discriminate against:
- Physical disabilities
- Mental disabilities
- Medical conditions
- Genetic conditions
In order to receive protection, an employee must be able to do the essential functions of their job. If an accommodation is needed, the employer is legally required to provide it (unless it is significantly complicated and/or expensive).
How are disabled employees protected?
Disabled employees are protected by the Disabilities Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (ADA) at a federal level. However, there are additional protections under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
If you believe you have been the victim of disability discrimination and that there was a violation of your rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you must file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Filing a claim
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the grounds of disability under the FEHA, an employee must show the following:
(1) the employee is a person with a disability or medical condition;
(2) the employee is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job;
(3) the employer made an adverse employment decision,
(4) because of the employee’s disability or medical condition.
Deschene v. Pinole Point Steel Co. (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 33, 44; Brundage v. Hahn (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 228, 236.
If the plaintiff employee is successful, the burden of production shifts to the defendant employer to respond with a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for the termination. If the employer is successful, the burden then shifts back to the employee to establish that the employer’s articulated reason was a “pretext” or cover-up for unlawful discrimination. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (1973) 411 U.S. 792, 802-04; Guz v. Bechtel Nat’l, Inc. 24 Cal.4th 317, 354 (2000).