According to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), people have the right to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination on the basis of physical disabilities, mental disabilities, or medical conditions. It also protects individuals from harassment on the basis of their disability.  Gov. Code §12940 (j). The FEHA’s definition of “disability” covers both physical and mental disabilities.

A physical disability is “any physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss” that does both of the following:

A)    “Affects one or more of the following body systems: neurological, immunological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.” Cal Gov Code §12926 (m).

B)   “Limits a major life activity.” Cal Gov Code §12926 (m).

“Major life activities” is broadly defined, and includes “physical, mental, and social activities and working.” Cal Gov Code §12926. Physical disability does not include “sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, or psychoactive substance use disorders.” Cal Gov Code §12926 (m).

A mental disability is “any mental or psychological disorder or condition, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or specific learning disabilities, that limits a major life activity.” Cal Gov Code §12926 (j). It also includes any other mental or psychological disorder or condition that is not described above in which special education or related services are required.

An employee is also protected from discrimination on the basis of a medical condition. Medical condition includes “any health impairment related to or associated with a diagnosis of cancer or a record or history of cancer, and genetic characteristics” Cal Gove Code §§12926, and 12940.

To protect individuals with disabilities, California labor laws mandate employers to make reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are modifications that enable a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job while enjoying equal benefits and privileges shared by other employees.  The accommodations must be reasonable—they cannot cause an undue hardship on the employer (i.e. significant financial costs, significant difficulty). Some examples of reasonable accommodations are (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2):

1). Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to employees with disabilities;

2).  Allowing employees to bring assistive animals to the workplace;

3). Moving an employee to a more accessible worksite

4). Providing assistive aids and services such as qualified readers or interpreters.

5). Minor reconstruction of duties or redistributing responsibilities

6). Modifying the work schedule

7). Giving a disabled employee time to recuperate or heal by leaving their job open for a reasonable period of time.

To pursue a claim, an employee must be able to perform the essential duties of the job with reasonable accommodations. Green v. State of California, (2007) 42 Cal. 4th 254, 263.  It is unlawful for an employer to deny reasonable accommodations for the known physical or mental disability of an employee or applicant. Cal Gov Code §12940 (m).

If you believe you are being unfairly discriminated against due to your disability or medical condition, don’t wait to contact the experts at the Hekmat Law Group.