A principal statute in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) was passed by the California state legislature on 18 September 1959. It prohibits employment discrimination and applies to employers, employment agencies, apprenticeship programs, labor organizations, and other entities engaging in discriminatory practices. The FEHA is enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
The FEHA is concerned with protecting people with disabilities in the workplace and ensuring that they received equal opportunity and access to employment. It applies to employers with five or more employees. As per the law, your employer is expected to make reasonable accommodations that can enable you to perform your work duties to the best of your ability. At the same time, these accommodations should not cause undue hardships to the employer or the other employees, or put them at any kind of risk.
They could involve making the office premises easily accessible to people in wheel-chairs, to give one example. To give another one, your employer cannot refuse to promote you if you are qualified for the job position, or prevent you from attending training programs and seminars on account of your disability.
While the FEHA is solid about offering employment protections to employees, it is subject to frequent changes and amendments. It will, therefore, help to get competent legal counsel to ensure that your workplace discrimination case will stand legal scrutiny if the matter goes to court. You should run a search for a disability discrimination lawyer near me and consult an experienced lawyer about your disability-related issue.
What is considered a disability under the FEHA?
The California law takes a broad view of the term disability. It takes into consideration all the conditions that can limit major life activities. These can include mental and physical disabilities, and also chronic or episodic health conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, epilepsy, hepatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent urination, and HIV/AIDS. Other conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress also qualify as disabilities under California law.
However, behavioral disorders like sexual deviancy, compulsive gambling, pyromania, kleptomania, and illegal substance abuse do not come under California’s definition of disability.
There is a broad range of major life activities that mental, physical, and health-related disabilities can limit. Working is one such major life activity. If your mental, physical, or health conditions limit your ability to work, you can be said to have a disability.
What to do if you have experienced disability-related work discrimination?
As per the California employment law, you cannot be discriminated against in your workplace for having a disability. However, if you think you are experiencing discrimination and your employer is not taking appropriate action to prevent it, you have the option of filing a complaint with the DFEH within one year of the incident.
Before you contact the DFEH, make sure that you have specific and verifiable evidence of workplace discrimination. This can include any emails, messages, photographs, videos, documents, and records related to the incident or incidents. If there are witnesses who can speak for you, mention those as well.
The DFEH will review your complaint and decide if they should accept it or not. If they accept it, they will assign investigators to conduct an impartial investigation. The DFEH will then arrange a mediation between you and your employer and try to find a mutually acceptable resolution for the issue.
However, if the situation cannot be voluntarily resolved and the DFEH’s investigation points to a definite violation of the California employment law, the DFEH will file a case in civil court and litigate the matter.
If the trial goes in your favor, the court will decide the appropriate compensation for you. It may be in the form of monetary compensation for the emotional distress and the job-related losses you suffered. The court may also ask your employer to undertake a training program and implement workplace policy changes to ensure that similar discrimination does not occur again.
You can also look up a “disability discrimination lawyer near me” and hire a competent lawyer to represent you and file a case on your behalf in California state court. The case must be filed within two years of the discriminatory incident.