Disabled Employees Rights

Disabled EmployeesDisabled employees facing discrimination. If you or a loved one has experienced workplace discrimination due to a disability, it is indefensible. When one employee with emphysema, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) requested accommodations in order to complete necessary tasks on the job, the company responded by discharging that employee. That act of dismissal has resulted in a lawsuit against that San Francisco company, InsideUp. If you have experienced workplace discrimination due to a disability, a local employment attorney may be able to help.

Disabled Employees and Federal ADA Regulations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the civil rights of people with disabilities.  The law addresses all aspects of public life, ranging from school and employment to transportation and dining out. Essentially, the law ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as people without disabilities. Title I of the ADA deals specifically with employment.

Employment Opportunities

This piece of the ADA calls for employers to provide opportunities and benefits to people with disabilities that are equivalent to the opportunities and benefits of their non-disabled counterparts. Additionally, reasonable accommodations and/or modifications must be provided to employees when essential to help the employee perform necessary functions of the job.

Disabled Employees and Reasonable Accommodations

Specific accommodations should be designed around individual circumstances in the workplace.  Examples of sensible accommodations include:

  • Adapting facilities to make them accessible for all employees;
  • Restructuring job requirements so as to provide opportunities for employees who might otherwise be limited by a disability;
  • Procuring specialized equipment or modifying existing equipment as needed;
  • Adapting tests, policies, or materials used in training employees;
  • Providing part-time positions or modified work-schedules when possible;
  • Reassigning employees to vacant positions when qualified.
  • Providing interpreters, readers, or similar assistance.

When and How to Request Accommodations for Disabled Employees

If you require workplace accommodations due to a medical disability, you simply need ask your employer. The request does not have to be in writing, although having documentation of your request can not hurt. It is not necessary to disclose your disability and ask for modifications during the hiring process. You may make your request at any time.

Documentation of Your Disability

Employers do have the right to request documentation for a disability that is not obvious. Be advised, however, that your employer is not entitled to your entire set of medical records. Just the documentation necessary to establish the need for reasonable accommodations must be provided.  Employers should be specific in their requests for information related to functional limitations and the types of accommodations that may be necessary. Employers may sometimes ask an employee with disabilities to provide a limited release of their medical information. Appropriate professionals who might provide information may include doctors and nurses, mental health professionals, occupational therapists, and other authorities on your medical condition. [Read more…]

Disability Discrimination Clarified By CA Appeals Court

Disability DiscriminationWallace v. County of Stanislaus: A California appeals court clarifies what counts as disability discrimination. Dennis Wallace filed a complaint against Stanislaus County, California after he was fired from his job with the sheriff’s department after suffering a knee injury. He alleged that he was fired due to a disability, even though he could have performed his job with proper accommodations – and thus the county violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

At trial, the jury found that the county treated Wallace as a person with a disability, and that Wallace was capable of performing his job with or without the proper accommodations. But despite these findings, the jury sided with the county, and Wallace’s complaint of disability discrimination was dismissed.

Why? Because the judge had instructed the jury that Wallace had a burden to demonstrate that the county regarded or treated him “as having a disability in order to discriminate.” In other words, the jury was told that Wallace needed to show that the county was motivated by ill will toward Wallace and used disability as an excuse to fire him. The jury found that this burden had not been met, and so the disability discrimination claim was resolved in favor of the county.

Wallace appealed, arguing that the jury instructions were incorrect, and that FEHA prohibits disability discrimination even when an employer has no animus against the employee. The Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District of California agreed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

The Court’s Reasoning

The Supreme Court set a well-known standard for employment discrimination cases in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. Under McDonnell Douglas, there is a three stage test for complaints.

  • First, the burden is on the plaintiff to make a prima facie showing that employment discrimination took place.
  • If the plaintiff meets this burden, then the burden shifts to the employer, who must provide a legitimate reason for taking the negative employment action in question (such as a firing),
  • If the employer meets this burden, then the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who can prove that discrimination took place by providing evidence that the employer had a discriminatory motive. This often involves demonstrating that the reason given by the employer was just a pretext for discrimination.

In Wallace, the appeals court clarified that the McDonnell Douglas test is only to be used if the plaintiff has no direct evidence of discrimination. In Wallace, there was direct evidence of discrimination, being as the employer acknowledged that Wallace’s disability was the reason he was fired.

The court held that when there is direct evidence of discrimination based on disability, the focus should not be on the employer’s motivations. Rather, the focus should be on whether the employee was able to perform essential job functions, whether a reasonable accommodation would allow the employee to perform these functions, and whether the accommodation would impose too much of a hardship on the employer. Thus, the court held that the instruction given to the jury was in error. [Read more…]


The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.