Los Angeles Disability Discrimination Attorneys
PROUDLY PROVIDING PRACTICAL & EFFECTIVE LEGAL GUIDANCE
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “no covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.”Although society has made significant strides regarding the treatment of individuals with disabilities, some employers still discriminate or fail to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or illnesses. In fact, this is one of the most common forms of employment discrimination, especially when the disability is “invisible.”
At King & Siegel LLP, we firmly believe that disability discrimination should never happen. That’s why we are committed to helping clients take action against employers who break anti-discrimination laws. We know that all too often, supervisors and managers only make the most minimal efforts to provide necessary accommodations before eventually terminating or retaliating against employees with disabilities. If you have been unjustly denied proper accommodations, have lost your job, or been denied benefits because of a disability, then know that the law is on your side.
DISABILITY & ACCOMMODATION LAWS IN CALIFORNIA
It is illegal to discriminate against an employee due to a physical or mental disability. Employers cannot fire you, demote you, or pay less because of your disability. You cannot control whether you have a disability and you shouldn’t have to worry about your employer using it against you.
The State of California offers broad protections for people with disabilities, as well as those with any disease, condition, anatomical loss, disorder, or disfigurement that substantially limits their ability to easily participate in key life activities, such as talking, walking, seeing, hearing, learning, and most importantly, working. Disabilities do not need to be “serious” or “obvious” in the eyes of your employer to qualify for legal protections.
Additionally, employees who recently had cancer that is in remission, or any other medical impairment or condition, either temporary or permanent, are entitled to accommodations under the law. The same goes for employees with mental or emotional conditions related to clinically diagnosed anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, depression, postnatal stress, or ADHD.
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees to let them keep working. The law also bans employers from retaliating against employees for asking for leave or accommodations. If you are discriminated against or denied reasonable accommodations you can sue your employer for damages.
If you have a medical condition, disability, or illness, know that the following laws protect you:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
- The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- The California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
- The California Kin Care Law and local paid sick leave laws, such as the Los Angeles Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
- The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL)
These laws ensure equal rights for those with disabilities in the workplace. You deserve a fair and safe chance at employment. Los Angeles ADA & disability discrimination lawyers at King & Siegel LLP can help you understand your options.
How the ADA Defines Disability
The ADA does not have a list of covered disabilities. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The law also protects those with a history or record of such an impairment and anyone perceived by others to have such an impairment. These definitions are construed broadly to protect workers from discrimination.
ADA employment discrimination is prohibited during recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other employment-related activities. The ADA also restricts what questions an employer can ask about an applicant’s disability before making a job offer. Most importantly, the ADA requires employers to grant an employee’s request for reasonable accommodations.
A reasonable accommodation is any change that enables a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations are “reasonable” if they do not cause undue hardship to the company.
However, employers are only responsible for accommodating “known” disabilities, meaning you should share the general nature of your disability and ask for the accommodations you need to perform your job. The ADA makes it the employee’s responsibility to alert the employer of their need for accommodation. We have included more examples of reasonable accommodations in the FAQ section below.
COMMON EXAMPLES OF DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE
If you have experienced any of the following forms of disability discrimination at work, please reach out to the compassionate Los Angeles disability discrimination attorneys at King & Siegel LLP to discuss all of your options under the law:
- An employer fails to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s medical condition or disability. This can include restructuring their job duties, creating flexible work arrangements, offering remote work, adjusting to a part-time or modified work schedule, and other similar accommodations.
- Firing a person with a disability because they requested reasonable accommodations from the employer.
- Refusing to grant leave to an employee for a medical need even though they are eligible under the CFRA, FMLA, or FEHA.
- An employer or company refuses to hire an employee who is qualified for a position because of their actual or perceived disability or that of their family members.
- An employer denies an employee a promotion because of their disability.
- A disabled employee is paid less than able-bodied workers.
Disability discrimination is a serious violation of employment rights. You deserve the opportunity to stand up against wrongful employment practices, and our Los Angeles ADA & disability discrimination attorneys at King & Siegel LLP can help.
The Statute of Limitations for Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
While laws like the ADA and FEHA create rights for employees with disabilities, those rights are not unlimited. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADA for employers with more than 15 employees. Employees must report ADA discrimination to the EEOC for investigation within 300 days of the disparate treatment.
On the other hand, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) accepts FEHA discrimination complaints for three years after the alleged harm.
What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit?
The goal of compensatory damages is to restore the injured individual to the same or nearly the same position they would have been if the discrimination had never happened. For example, if you missed out on a promotion, your employer might owe you back pay at the higher rate of pay or reinstatement to the higher role. Damages also might include compensation for emotional damages. In addition, a court might require an employer to change its policies or attend training.
In contrast, punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and discourage others from similar violations. A jury might award punitive damages if they find that the employer’s conduct was intentional or malicious. Malice means the employer intended to cause injury to the employee or carried on despicable conduct with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others. Oppression means dishonorable conduct that subjects an employee to cruel and unjust hardship with conscious disregard for that person’s rights.
With the right legal team by your side, you can recover the full compensatory value of your injuries. However, EEOC rules limit damages by employer size:
- For employers with 15-100 employees, the limit is $50,000.
- For employers with 101-200 employees, the limit is $100,000.
- For employers with 201-500 employees, the limit is $200,000.
- For employers with more than 500 employees, the limit is $300,000.
California does not cap damages in cases under the FEHA. Whenever possible, California employees are generally advised to sue under the FEHA.
FAQ: EMPLOYEE DISABILITY RIGHTS
Question #1: Who is covered under the disability discrimination laws of California?
A: An employee is “disabled” for these laws if their physical disabilities, mental disabilities, medical conditions, or genetic conditions limit “a major life activity.” “Major life activities” include moving around freely, eating, sleeping, working, breathing, etc. The law also protects employees from discrimination based on an employer’s perception that they have a disability, even if the employer is wrong.
Finally, the law protects employees who are associated with disabled individuals. Claims about associational disability discrimination often come up when caretakers are targeted because they have obligations to disabled family members. Or employers might illegally stereotype these workers as less reliable or valuable because they must take care of sick family members.
Question #2: How do I prove disability discrimination?
A: You do not need a “smoking gun” to prove disability discrimination. Few employers will admit they discriminated based on a protected class. An employee can prove discrimination if they were fired, demoted, etc. after disclosing their disability or asking for accommodations. Employees can also prove discrimination by showing that non-disabled employees were treated better.
Although employers rarely admit they are discriminating, they often make comments about employees’ “health,” “reliability,” etc., which can be evidence of discrimination. Comments about other employees “picking up the slack” or other similar comments can also be evidence of discrimination. Lying about an employee’s performance or why they were fired is also evidence of discrimination.
Question #3: What is considered a reasonable accommodation in the workplace?
A: In California, you have a right to “reasonable accommodations” for a disability if your employer has at least 5 employees. Once you request a reasonable accommodation, your employer must engage in the “good faith interactive process” to see if they can accommodate you.
An accommodation is “reasonable” if it is not “undue hardship” to the employer. Whether an accommodation is an “undue hardship” depends on the cost to the employer, the financial resources/size of the employer, and the impact on operations.
Keep in mind that an accommodation can be a “hardship.” It just cannot be too much of a hardship. This means that employers must spend some money and make some effort to accommodate you. Simply because it is a hassle is not enough to stop an employer from accommodating you.
Reasonable accommodations can include:
- Job restructuring, including reassignment of lesser job duties
- Reassignment to temporary light duty
- Modified equipment (lifts, chairs, etc.)
- Modified schedule (flexible schedule, different shift schedule, etc.)
- A short-term leave of absence
- Intermittent (off and on) leave
- Assistive software
- A service animal
These are just examples. Accommodations might also depend on what medical providers recommend for you to continue working.
Question #4: What is the interactive process?
A: The interactive process aims to allow the employee to explain the barrier in the workplace and what might accommodate them. The employee is most familiar with their disability and knows what type of accommodation will be effective. On the other hand, the employer knows the systems, policies, and practices in place within the organization. The law usually requires an employee to initiate the accommodation request. While it’s a good idea to document the process, it’s not required for the employee to make a formal request in writing.
Once an employee asks for an accommodation, the employer must promptly meet with the employee to find appropriate accommodations and provide those accommodations if they don’t pose an “undue hardship”. The interactive process is ongoing and requires input from both sides. The employer cannot have one conversation, stop engaging, throw its hands up, and say, “we tried.” That is not enough.
For example, if an employee requests a transfer to a less strenuous position, the employer cannot offer a single position and conceal other positions that become available later. If the employee requests information about equipment, the employer must take steps to find out what equipment is available. “That seems expensive” is not sufficient.
The specific actions an employer must take will vary, but the employer must always try to accommodate the employee in good faith. Not all accommodations will work, but the employer must try to identify something that does.
Although you don’t need a Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyer for the interactive process, it can be helpful to consult with one to make sure you understand your rights.
Question #5: Can an employer retaliate against an employee for requesting accommodations?
A: No. Retaliation is illegal. You cannot be demoted, fired, lose pay/seniority, denied promotions, denied pay raises, denied work assignments, etc. because you requested or used an accommodation.
You should retain an attorney if you are retaliated against. Though illegal, some employers will write up, cut hours, or fire employees after they request accommodations. If this happens, you should talk to a Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.
Question #6: What Should I Do If I Was Fired Because of My Disability?
A: Discrimination cases are based on the facts of your particular situation. If you were fired because of a disability, we recommend that you:
- Write out a timeline of the facts leading up to the discrimination;
- Write down the names, work titles, and contact information of all people you feel have responsibility; and
- Make a list of all people you believe witnessed the events leading to your dismissal.
Other records and proof relating to your employment can be beneficial, like work manuals and policies, paystubs, and work performance reviews.
Contact Our Los Angeles Disability Discrimination
The knowledgeable and skilled legal professionals at King & Siegel LLP firmly believe that all Americans have the right to pursue a career that fulfills their dreams. If you have been refused reasonable accommodation for a disability and it results in difficulty performing your job or retaliation from your employer, then get in touch with our firm in Downtown Los Angeles for immediate support.
Our legal team is prepared to leverage our extensive resources to fight for your rights, so please don’t hesitate to call (213) 510-3249 to request a free case consultation with King & Siegel LLP. We proudly serve disabled employees across Downtown LA.