1- At the Federal and State level, discrimination against employees with disabilities is prohibited by law. Under the Federal law, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discriminatory actions taken by employers against their employees. The same applies at the State level in California and is regulated by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Amongst other recognized protected classes and or characteristics, employees with physical or mental disabilities have rights that protect them from being discriminated against based on their disability. Employees with disabilities in California have many rights under FEHA, however it is a matter of knowing your rights as a disabled employee in order to know you have a claim against your employer or organization who has violated those rights. Call a Disability Discrimination Lawyer to discuss this further.
2- An employee may have a disability discrimination case if they can show that they had a recognized disability, they possessed the skills and qualifications for the position they occupied at the time or applied for, they were subjected to adverse treatment in the workplace, and the reason for this treatment was based on their recognized disability. A Disability Discrimination Lawyer in your area is the professional to contact in this kind of situation,
3- Recognized mental disabilities under FEHA may include mental or psychological disorders such as learning disabilities, associated deficits and disorders, intellectual disabilities, organic brain syndrome, and/or emotional or mental illness. A recognized physical disability under FEHA may include any physical impairment by a physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or any loss of control of the body. Physical impairments must affect the employee’s body system as well as limit major life activity. Consider speaking to a Disability Discrimination Lawyer for more assistance.
4- The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, in this case, the employee, to prove that he or she has been discriminated against by the employer. In order to prove an employee has been discriminated against, the employee must prove that there was a causal connection between their disability and their termination, constructive termination or resignation from their position. This causal connection would demonstrate that the employee was terminated based on their disability. For example, an employee with a recognized learning disability is asked to sit for an exam for training purposes. This employee’s particular disability required that he have a person read the exam directions and questions aloud to him. When the employee sent a formal request for this accommodation, the employer said they had to let him go because “this company didn’t need the dead weight of someone who couldn’t handle taking an exam without having someone read the instructions for them”. Here, the employer’s actions and words may be characterized as discriminatory because the employee’s request for accommodation triggered the employer’s decision to terminate his employment (Hoffman v. Caterpillar, Inc., 368 F. 3d 709, 2004 U.S. App.) Therefore, there is a direct causal link between the employee’s disability and the decision to terminate. In this scenario the employee would be able to draw this link and have a potential action against the employer for disability discrimination under FEHA. For a clearer understanding of this contact a Disability Discrimination Lawyer.
5- If the case was to go to trial, the employee in this scenario would have to show that their disability was the substantial and driving force behind the termination.(Horsford v. Board of Trustees of Calif. State Univ. (2005)) Referring back to the employee with the learning disability, let’s say prior to the employee’s request for accommodation he had been caught stealing products from his job-site. Based on those facts the employer may argue that the reason for firing the employee was based on the theft. Therefore, the employee may not be able to prove that his disability was the substantial cause of his termination. Asking a Disability Discrimination Lawyer is the best way to pursue a disability discrimination case.
6- As mentioned previously, an employer’s choice of words can be calculated to being discriminatory and contribute to the evidence that the employee was wrongfully terminated. An employer may choose to verbalize, or write words or make remarks that may be discriminatory. This could occur anywhere from being said in an email or in passing in the break room. In some circumstances the remark could be characterized as discriminatory even if the remark was not directed at the employee with a disability (Metoyer v. Chassman (9th 2007)) For example, referring the employee with the learning disability, prior to his termination his employer may have made jokes at the company Christmas party to other employees about “how lazy people with disabilities are”. Here, even though this comment was made to another employee, the employee with the disability may present this as evidence that their disability was the ultimate cause of his termination. However, keep in mind that it bolsters an employee’s claim if the remarks made by the employer were related to the ultimate decision to terminate the employee otherwise they may be considered “stray remarks” (Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989)). In California, “stray remarks”, which may be discriminatory remarks made outside of the decision-process to terminate an employee, are still taken into account and considered part of all evidence as a whole (Reid v. Google, Inc. (2010)). With the assistance of a Disability Discrimination Lawyer, an employee can make claim against their former employer.
7- An employee may strengthen their claim if they can prove that their employer did not implement the reasonable accommodation. Depending on the circumstances and the particular disability, in general, an employer would need to reasonably accommodate an employee through modifications and adjustments, facilitate processes that would enable the employee to carry out essential job functions, and provide paid or unpaid leave to the employee while they receive treatment for their disability. Some ways that an employer could accommodate the disabled employee would be by allowing the employee to switch to a part-time position, allow flexibility in scheduling, adjust facilities within the workplace to be accessible to the employee based on the employee’s disability needs, provide extra training to ensure the employee receives an equal opportunity in comparison to all other employees, allow the employee to have support or guide dog accompany them at work,
8- Above all, it is imperative that the employer maintains open communication with the employee in relation to any changes in their needs as a disabled employee, also known as an “interactive process”. It is the organization or employer’s responsibility to ensure that all supervisors who oversee the disabled employee are aware of any accommodations that need to be provided to the employee. For further guidance on the matter, call a Disability Discrimination Lawyer.