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What are California’s Disability Discrimination Laws?

The topic of disability and what can be done to make accommodations for disability at work can sometimes be unclear. California employment law offers a wide range of legal protection for employees who can establish a valid claim for disability discrimination in the workplace. But what constitutes as disability discrimination in the state of California?

What are the disability discrimination laws in California?

The primary support against disability discrimination in California is the  FEHA (California Fair Employment and Housing Act). This act was passed in 1974. Since it was passed, California has been a pioneer in guaranteeing that people with disabilities have equal access to employment.

California disability discrimination laws offer more protections to workers than federal law as well. While most workers are familiar with the federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), it defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Under FEHA, a disability is defined as impairment which makes performance of any major life activity difficult. It means that under California employment law, workers with a wide range of diseases, disorders and conditions would be deemed to have a disability. This does not only involve those with physical or mental impairments.

Examples of Disability Discrimination

Let’s say you are being treated unfairly in the workplace due to your disability and you want to make a claim against your boss. How do you know if your boss is actually violating the law? It is hard to be certain, as each situation is different when it comes to workplace discrimination. The following actual disability discrimination cases can help shed some light into what constitutes as unlawful disability discrimination in the state of California.

The EEOC assisted Eldridge Davis, a driver for Pepsi, in obtaining a disability discrimination settlement. Eldridge Davis’ lawsuit alleged that he was denied reasonable accommodation and was wrongfully terminated. Davis says he followed company procedure to inform his supervisor that his disability prevented him from finishing his driving route and that he needed to take medical leave, but Pepsi terminated him for job abandonment. Medical leave is a widely recognized accommodation and in Davis’ case, something that could have been easily granted according to the EEOC.

In a different disability discrimination case, the EEOC settled a lawsuit against Tarsadia Hotels. The suit was filed on behalf of a hotel clerk who had autism and was denied reasonable accommodation, disciplined unfairly and then terminated because of his disability. The hotel clerk had prior hotel work experience in a similar position where his work earned him positive reviews. But soon after he started working with Tarsadia, the clerk sought free job coach services from the state, which would have helped him do his job by using training techniques for those with autism. Tarsadia refused the assistance of a job coach and then terminated the autistic employee.

Taking legal action against a past or present employer could be frightening. But the mechanisms in place for addressing disability discrimination in California are much stronger than any other state. Anyone considering this course of action is encouraged to talk to our employment attorneys and learn about what remedies the state’s laws can offer to them.

Do you feel you are a victim of workplace disability discrimination? Contact our expert attorneys here!

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