Disability Discrimination Attorneys for Los Angeles, Kern, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties

What is Disability Discrimination in the Employment Context?

Disability discrimination is a serious issue in the workplace which often leads to litigation.  In the most general sense, it involves an adverse employment action against an employee based on his or her physical or mental disability.  In the context of an employment law, disability discrimination comes up and/or is proven in different ways such as disparate treatment discrimination, and disparate impact discrimination.  It can also involve other related issues like for example, the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, and/or the failure to engage in a good faith interactive process.

Common Forms of Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination in the workplace can occur in various forms. Below are some examples:

  1. Refusal to Hire Based on Disability: This involves rejecting a job applicant because of their disability, despite being qualified for the position.
  2. Failure to Promote Based on Disability: Discrimination can occur when individuals with disabilities are sidelined in job assignments or overlooked for promotions due to their condition.
  3. Discriminatory Pay: Employers may discriminate by paying disabled employees less than their able-bodied counterparts for the same work.
  4. Harassment: This includes negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person’s disability. Harassment could also involve nicknames, teasing, name-calling, pulling faces, jokes, pranks, or any other behavior that is upsetting because of a person’s disability.
  5. Retaliation: This occurs when an employee is treated unfairly as a result of making or supporting a complaint about discrimination.
  6. Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodation: Employers are required by law to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s disability unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation often accompanies disability discrimination.
  7. Disability-Based Firing or Demotion: This refers to firing or demoting an employee because of their disability.

These are just some examples of how disability discrimination can manifest in the workplace.

What Does the Law Say About Disability Discrimination?

Several state and federal laws protect individuals from disability discrimination, particularly in the workplace. These laws aim to ensure equal opportunities and fair treatment for all employees, regardless of their physical or mental conditions.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This is a federal law that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals with disabilities. The ADA also mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees to perform their jobs.

Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): In California, the FEHA provides additional protection for individuals with disabilities. It applies to employers with five or more employees and offers broader protections than federal law. The FEHA prohibits discrimination against employees due to their disabilities.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973: This federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance, in federal employment, and in the employment practices of federal contractors.

These are just some of the laws that work together to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to employment opportunities and are treated fairly in the workplace.

Employees that feel they are being discriminated against based on disability should contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. to see if their rights have been violated.

Quality Representation to Protect Rights for Employees in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Oxnard

At Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C., we offer top notch representation to employees who have faced disability discrimination in their workplace. We proudly serve clients throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura.

When you contact the Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C., you get direct access to an attorney.  This empowers you to get assistance quickly.  We offer a complimentary consultation and may offer contingency fee services.  So, if workplace disability discrimination is an issue for you in Southern California, call the Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Discrimination Attorneys for Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Oxnard

I feel like my employer is treating me differently and discriminating against me because I have a disability. Do I have rights?

Yes. A federal law titled the Americans with Disabilities Act protects qualified employees who have disabilities and prohibits covered employers from discriminating against or treating their employees differently due to their disabilities. Additionally, in California, employees have even greater rights and protections because of a California law titled the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The protections offered by the Fair Employment and Housing Act are independent of those provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Fair Employment and Housing Act applies to smaller employers and applies even to temporary physical or mental conditions.

What disabilities qualify for protection?

You may have a “qualifying” disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities, if you have a record of such an impairment, or if you are regarded as having such an impairment. This protection extends to both permanent and temporary disabilities. Of course, there are various factors that go into this consideration and each situation is different. We encourage you to contact our employment law attorneys for Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Oxnard to discuss your specific situation and determine if your condition is a “qualifying disability.” Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. provides complimentary case evaluations.

What are my employer’s obligations if I become disabled?

If you become disabled, if your employer believes that you are disabled, or if your employer treats you like you are disabled, then your employer is required to engage in what is called the “interactive process” to determine how to accommodate your disability and must reasonably accommodate you to the extent that it can. Additionally, if you become disabled, your employer is also prohibited from discriminating against you, treating you differently, retaliating against you, harassing you, or terminating you because of your disability.

How will my employer determine what “reasonable accommodations” I need?

Once you have a “qualifying disability” (or if your employer believes you do), you and your employer must engage in what is known as the “interactive process.” The interactive process is basically an informal process between you and your employer during which the employer has to consider your limitations and what can be done to accommodate them. The purpose of the “interactive process” is to identify a “reasonable accommodation” that will allow you to perform your job effectively. If your employer believes you are disabled or is informed that you are disabled, it must engage in this informal process with you. It is illegal for an employer to refuse to engage in this informal process.

What types of accommodations must my employer provide to me?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for the known disabilities of applicants and employees to enable them to perform a position’s “essential functions” unless doing so would produce “undue hardship” to the employer’s operations.

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to the workplace that enables you to perform the “essential functions” of your job. Examples of a reasonable accommodation include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, permitting you to take more breaks, reassignment to a vacant position, permitting you to take a leave of absence, permitting you to work from home, etc.

While employers must provide reasonable accommodations, not all accommodation requests must be provided. An employer is not required to provide the requested accommodation if it is unreasonable or would cause an “undue hardship” to the business operations.

While applying for a job, I checked off the box indicating that I have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation. Can my potential employer discriminate against me because of this? 

No. Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act make it illegal for a potential employer to treat you differently or discriminate against you because of a disability during the employment application process.

Can I take a leave of absence because I am suffering a disability?

Yes. In California, there are laws that provide protections to employees for short-term or long-term disability leave. If you are disabled, your employer is required to accommodate you by allowing you to go out on a disability leave, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation was an undue burden on the business or is unreasonable. The nature, length, and requirements regarding a disability leave vary depending on each circumstance and the type of leave taken. We encourage you to contact our disability discrimination lawyers to discuss the types of leave available to you. At Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. we provide complimentary case evaluations so that you can discuss your case with our team.

Can my employer retaliate against me because I am disabled or took a disability leave?

No. The Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it illegal for employers in California to fire, demote, or take any other “adverse employment action” against you for taking a disability leave from work, complaining to your employer about disability discrimination or harassment, opposing disability discrimination or harassment, or filing an administrative or civil complaint regarding your disability.

As a disabled employee, what should I be on the lookout for?

Your rights may have been violated if you were subjected to different treatment, discrimination, retaliation, harassment, or termination because of your disability or because your employer perceived you to be disabled. Such discrimination, harassment, or retaliation can occur at any stage of employment, including the following employment decisions:

  • Failure to hire
  • Probationary period
  • Promotions
  • Training opportunities
  • Compensation
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Demotions
  • Performance reviews or performance improvement plans
  • Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation
  • Failure to engage in an interactive process
  • Reduction in force
  • Forced retirement
  • Termination

Featured Disability Discrimination Case

Gelfo v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 140 Cal. App. 4th 34, 43 Cal. Rptr. 3d 874 (2006)The employee in Gelfo had been laid-off as part of reduction in force while suffering from a workplace injury.  The employee sued his employer, alleging disability discrimination in violation of Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The Superior Court granted in part the employer’s motion for a directed verdict and entered judgment on the jury verdict for the employer. The employee appealed.  The Court of Appeal held that the evidence established that employer “regarded” employee as physically disabled within meaning of FEHA and that because of that the employer was required to accommodate the employee regardless of whether or not the employee was actually disabled.

In pertinent part the opinion provides as follows: “In addition to a general prohibition against unlawful employment discrimination based on disability, FEHA provides an independent cause of action for an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for an applicant’s or employee’s known disability. (§ 12940, subd. (a), (m).) “Under the express provisions of the FEHA, the employer’s failure to reasonably accommodate a disabled individual is a violation of the statute in and of itself.” (Jensen, supra, 85 Cal.App.4th at p. 256, 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 55; Bagatti v. Department of Rehabilitation (2002) 97 Cal.App.4th 344, 357, 118 Cal.Rptr.2d 443 [same] (Bagatti ).) Similar reasoning applies to violations of Government Code section 12940, subdivision (n), for an employer’s failure to engage in a good faith interactive process to determine an effective accommodation, once one is requested. (§ 12940, subd. (n); Claudio v. Regents of University of California (2005) 134 Cal.App.4th 224, 243, 35 Cal.Rptr.3d 837.)

Two principles underlie a cause of action for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. First, the employee must request an accommodation. (Prilliman v. United Air Lines, Inc. (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 935, 954, 62 Cal.Rptr.2d 142.) Second, the parties must engage in an interactive process regarding the requested accommodation and, if the process fails, responsibility for the failure rests with the party who failed to participate in good faith. (See Jensen, supra, 85 Cal.App.4th at p. 266, 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 55.) While a claim of failure to accommodate is independent of a cause of action for failure to engage in an interactive dialogue, each necessarily implicates the other.

Relying on federal authorities interpreting the ADA, Lockheed maintains the right to reasonable accommodation flows only to an applicant or employee who is “actually” disabled. Lockheed also asserts that requiring an employer to participate in an interactive process with an individual “regarded as” disabled promotes form over function. Such a requirement, in its view, compels employers to engage in an expensive but futile process, because employees merely “regarded as” disabled do not qualify for a reasonable accommodation. (See Gilday v. Mecosta County (6th Cir.1997) 124 F.3d 760, 764 [a person without an actual disability needs no accommodation].) The trial court agreed and directed verdicts against Gelfo on his causes of action for “failure to accommodate” and “failure to engage in the interactive process.” The directed verdicts were a mistake.

On these issues, which are novel to California and on which the federal courts are divided, we conclude that employers must reasonably accommodate individuals falling within any of FEHA’s statutorily defined “disabilities,” including those “regarded as” disabled, and must engage in an informal, interactive process to determine any effective accommodations.

Contact Us When You Need an Employment Law Attorney for Los Angeles, Kern, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties

Call us today at (818) 509-9975 or contact us online to schedule a complimentary case evaluation. We have extensive experience in all aspects of employment law, including disability discrimination cases.

Areas Served

The litigation and trial attorneys of Akopyan Law Firm, A.P.C. provide services throughout Southern California including but not limited to AdelantoAgoura HillsAlhambraAliso ViejoAltadenaAnaheimApple ValleyArcadiaArletaAtwater VillageAzuzaBakersfieldBaldwin ParkBanningBeaumontBellBell GardensBellflowerBeverly HillsBlytheBoyle HeightsBreaBrentwoodBuena ParkBurbankCalabasasCalimesaCamarilloCanoga ParkCanyon LakeCarsonCathedral CityCerritosChatsworthChino HillsChinoClaremontCoachellaColtonComptonCosta MesaCoronaCovinaCulver CityCypressDana PointDesert Hot SpringsDiamond BarDowneyDuarteEagle RockEast HollywoodEast Los AngelesEastvaleEcho ParkEl MonteEl SegundoEl SerenoEncinoFontanaFountain ValleyFullertonGardenaGarden GroveGlassell ParkGlendaleGlendoraGranada HillsHacienda HeightsHawthorneHemetHesperiaHighland ParkHighlandHollywoodHollywood HillsHuntington BeachHuntington ParkIndian WellsIndioInglewoodIrvineJurupa ValleyLa Canada FlintridgeLa-Crescenta MontroseLa HabraLa MiradaLa PalmaLa PuenteLa QuintaLa VerneLaguna BeachLaguna HillsLaguna NiguelLaguna WoodsLakewoodLake BalboaLake ElsinoreLake ForestLancasterLawndaleLincoln HeightsLoma LindaLong BeachLos AlamitosLos AngelesLos FelizLynwoodManhattan BeachMar VistaMaywoodMenifeeMission HillsMission ViejoMonroviaMontclairMontebelloMonterey ParkMoorparkMoreno ValleyMurrietaNewbury ParkNewhallNewport BeachNorcoNorth HillsNorth HollywoodNorthridgeNorwalkOntarioOrangeOxnardPacific PalisadesPacoimaPalos VerdesPalmdalePalm DesertPalm SpringsPanorama CityParamountPasadenaPerrisPico RiveraPlacentiaPomonaPorter RanchRancho CucamongaRancho MirageRancho Santa MargaritaRedondo BeachResedaRialtoRiversideRosemeadRowland HeightsSan BernardinoSan ClementeSan DimasSan GabrielSan FernandoSan JacintoSan Juan CapistranoSan PedroSanta AnaSanta ClaritaSanta MonicaSawtelleSeal BeachShadow HillsSherman OaksSilver LakeSimi ValleySouth El MonteSouth GateSouth PasadenaSouth WhittierStantonStudio CitySun ValleySunlandSylmarTarzanaTemeculaTemple CityThousand OaksToluca LakeTorranceTujungaTustinTwentynine PalmsUplandValenciaValley GlenValley VillageVan NuysVenturaVictorvilleWalnutWest CovinaWest HillsWest HollywoodWest Puente Valley, WestchesterWestminsterWestwoodWhittierWildomarWinnetkaWoodland HillsYorba Linda