Californians living with a disability already face many challenges in their everyday lives. Those struggles exponentially increase when employers treat them differently in the workplace or the application process.

In addition to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), California enforces state laws protecting the disabled, including the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Disabled Persons Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (CFEHA).

Which disabilities are included?

California’s protections and definitions of disabilities are broader than federal safeguards. The state defines disabilities as conditions that limit a major life activity, including:

  • Physical disabilities, such as blindness, deafness, anatomical loss, cosmetic disfigurement or physiological disease
  • Mental disabilities, such as autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or PTSD
  • Medical conditions, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS

Laws also protect people needing a “special education” for a wide variety of learning disabilities. These include persons with a “perceived disability” – or those who had disabling conditions in the past but suffer no current effects.

Signs of workplace discrimination

Discrimination occurs when employers treat qualified applicants or workers differently due to their disability. Common red flags include:

  • Failing to make accommodations for a disability or perceived disability
  • Refusing to give time off for a doctor’s appointment
  • Retaliating against workers who assert their rights under state and federal laws
  • Demotion or termination based on a disability or medical condition
  • Forcing someone to work despite medical restrictions

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers or job applicants with disabilities unless they can prove that doing so would cause them significant difficulty or expense, also known as “undue hardship.”

Enforcing an “interactive process”

Under the CFEHA, employers identify the purpose and essential functions of positions and work with a disabled employee or applicant to pinpoint any barriers for doing the job and make a good faith effort to come up with reasonable accommodations.

Employers must be proactive and cooperate with a disabled person and do so without delays or obstructions. If an employer violates your rights during this process, an experienced employment attorney can hold them accountable.