Disability Discrimination

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") provides broader protections to persons with disabilities than its federal counterpart, the Americans with Disabilities Act. FEHA declares that protections to persons with disabilities in the workplace is a matter of public policy.

California's FEHA
FEHA protections for persons with disabilities apply to employers with five or more employees. FEHA protects all persons with a physical or mental condition that limit a major life activity but does not apply to independent contractors.

  • FEHA prohibits an employer from taking any "adverse employment action" for reasons of disability, including but not limited to terminating an employee, denying promotional opportunities, and denying pay or benefits. Terminations in violation of FEHA may give rise to a claim for wrongful termination.
  • FEHA's protections apply to disabilities that limit major life activities, including physical disabilities, mental disabilities, or medical conditions (e.g., cancer). Major life activities include working, thus making FEHA applicable to the workplace.
  • Some examples of particular physical disabilities are HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and certain pregnancies, but other disabilities are also protected. Some examples of particular mental disabilities are learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. FEHA also protects persons perceived as having a disability.
  • FEHA requires employers to provide employees with "reasonable accommodations" to allow employees to perform the essential functions of the employee's job. Reasonable accommodations are broad and may include any number of possibilities, including but not limited to providing temporary leaves of absence, modified work equipment such as sit/stand desks, modified work schedules, increased work breaks, or temporary reassignment to a different position. The specific job duties and an employee's limitations guide the underlying inquiry of what may or may not qualify as a reasonable accommodation.
  • FEHA requires employers to engage with employees in the interactive process in good faith to identify possible accommodations that would enable a person to perform the essential functions of their job.
  • Essential functions may include items listed in an employee's job description but the determination of what functions of a job are "essential" depend on an employee's actual day-to-day work activities. 

If you believe you may have been subjected to disability discrimination, please call for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances.