Disability discrimination lawyer representing employees in the San Francisco Bay Area
People with disabilities are entitled to the same employment opportunities as other employees. Both California and federal laws protect disabled employees from discrimination and harassment.
If you have a disability that affects your ability to work, your employer must attempt to find a “reasonable accommodation” that will help you keep working. There are countless possible accommodations, but they often include special equipment, medical leave, or if all else fails, reassignment to another job. If such an accommodation is practical, then you may not be fired because of your disability. Some employers, such as those with under five employees, are not covered by these laws.
One in four Americans has a disability that disrupts a major life activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As it is difficult to determine when accommodations are possible it is best to speak to a skilled employment lawyer.
McCormack Law Firm has extensive experience defending employees who have been fired for a disability or for taking medical leave. We will review your case and fight to help you receive justice and compensation.
McCormack Law Firm believes in protecting the rights of disabled workers. If you have faced disability discrimination in the workplace, speak to a knowledgeable San Francisco employment lawyer to learn about your legal options.
Our attorneys are prepared not only to work tirelessly until you recover the compensation you deserve but also to help to end your employer’s discriminatory practices for good.
Disability discrimination protections under California & federal law
Employers have a duty to engage in an interactive process with disabled employees
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit employers from discriminating against workers with physical or mental disabilities. The laws serve as important guidelines for how employees with disabilities should be treated in the workplace. Employers with five or more employees are legally obligated to engage in a good faith “interactive process” with disabled workers, which means that both parties must discuss reasonable accommodations the employer may be able to provide to help the employee continue working. It is important to respond timely to the employer’s requests for information or some rights may be lost.
What qualifies as a disability under California law?
California’s FEHA has a broad definition of disability. It covers physical or mental impairments that interfere with one or more major life activities including seeing, hearing, speaking, thinking, walking or working. Not all disabilities are obvious, nor do they have to be permanent. Some common examples of disabilities protected under state law are back, leg or arm injuries, muscle injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart disease, kidney disease and cancer, but the list is endless. The law also protects individuals who are perceived as having a disability but are not actually disabled—for example, people who have recovered from a disease.
The right to request reasonable accommodation at work
In many situations, disabled employees are qualified to perform a job but just need some help. “Reasonable accommodations” are modifications or assistance that allow workers with disabilities to carry out the essential functions of their jobs.
Employers are required to communicate with disabled employees about ways the company may accommodate them. This interactive process involves addressing questions about the worker’s disability such as: How does it impact their ability to work? Is an accommodation possible? If so, what is the best way to accommodate the disability? Courts do not require employees to use words like “reasonable accommodation” or “interactive process” when discussing their needs with an employer. However, disabled employees should talk to a manager or human resources personnel promptly and explain their needs as best they can. Where possible, it is best to make all requests in writing and keep a copy.
What types of reasonable accommodation can I expect from my employer?
A reasonable accommodation can come in many forms, such as time off, making a workstation wheelchair-accessible or allowing more rest breaks. Its purpose is to provide people with disabilities with an equitable work environment in which they can perform their key duties. With appropriate accommodation, employees with disabilities can thrive in the workplace. Here are some common examples:
Restructured job duties, such as having other employees lift heavy objects.
Flexible work schedules to make time for medical appointments.
Leave of absence for medical treatment or therapy.
Physical changes to workspaces for better accessibility, like adding ramps.
New assistive equipment like desks or technology, or options to work from home when necessary.
Transfer to an alternative open position, usually as a last resort.
What happens if my employer denies accommodation?
An employer cannot refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified employee with a disability unless the employer can show that doing so would create an “undue hardship,” meaning that the cost, difficulty or disruption would be too great. Your employer may ask you for a doctor’s note with information about the accommodations you require. Keep in mind that employers do not have to provide the exact accommodation you request from them. The company can choose a less costly alternative, as long as it is appropriate.
Undue hardship varies between employers.
Many factors come into play when determining whether an undue hardship exists, like the size, structure and financial circumstances of the employer. For example, a large corporation may have a significant budget that allows the purchasing of new assistive equipment, while a local small business may have fewer resources on hand.
Working together to find a solution.
If continuing your original job is not possible even with an accommodation, your employer has a duty to help you consider all available options. This includes finding other vacant positions you could take or giving you preference for potential new jobs for which you are qualified. Employers who refuse to make good faith efforts are in violation of the law.
Disability discrimination is prohibited across all stages of employment.
Just as it is unlawful to discriminate, harass, or terminate an employee because of their race, sex, or age, it is unlawful to violate the rights of disabled workers. Too often, employees with disabilities do not realize that they are entitled to legal protections. They end up not taking any action even though their employer has violated the law. A skilled employment law attorney can evaluate your situation and provide guidance on whether you have a strong legal claim for disability discrimination.
How many people are affected by disabilities in the United States?
Disability discrimination and retaliation in the workplace
If your company fires you because of your disability or in retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodation, you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. Your employer must show you were fired for a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason, like a large layoff or well-documented and serious performance problems. You will have to show your employer’s reason is false or exaggerated, and that your disability is the real reason you were fired.
You will need to be able to show that:
You have a disability
You were able to do your job, either with an accommodation or not
The termination was because of your disability or accommodation request
Call today for a free consultation
If you have suffered disability discrimination in the workplace, you need an experienced employment lawyer to passionately fight on your behalf. We will listen to you and help you understand your legal rights as an employee with a disability. Whether you were wrongfully terminated or denied reasonable accommodations, McCormack Law Firm is committed to ensuring you are treated fairly under the law. Call now: 415.925.5161.