California provides protections to employees for when employees are required to take leave due to a protected disability or medical condition. An individual is considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that causes substantial limitations on one or more major life activities. In California, employees with qualifying disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations from their employers so long as they do not cause an undue hardship on the employer. These protections extend even if the employer mistakenly believes the employee has a disability and treats that employee differently.
For example, an officer worker should not be terminated because he or she cannot sit for long periods of time due to a disability when perhaps the employee could have still performed the functions of the job by merely standing. This is an accommodation, and an employer can be found liable for failing to prove that an accommodation was unduly burdensome or by requiring an employee to be 100% healed before returning to work. Rather, employers must engage in the “interactive process” to determine what the job limitations are, identifying potential accommodations, and assessing effectiveness. A failure to engage in this process is a separate Fair Employment & Housing Act violation independent from an employer’s failure to provide disability discrimination.
In a case that we had recently, an employee suffered a broken foot. Her doctor restricted her from driving to work. Her employer terminated her, in turn, for excessive absenteeism and refusing to come to work. However, we argued this was not only disability discrimination and wrongful termination, but also a failure to accommodate and a failure to engage in a good faith interactive process. While the employer made a good point that the employee could technically do work in the office if she made it there, the employer did not work with the employee to get her to work.
Specifically, the owner of the employer admitted at her deposition that she did not offer to pay for the employee’s rides to and from work. The owner of the employer admitted that she did not offer to provide the employee with rides or otherwise organize rides for her. The owner of the employer also admitted failing to discuss with the employee the potential of the employee performing work from home until she could do her work, or giving her time off to recover. Rather, the owner of the employer only degraded the employee for her injury. We obtained a six-digit recovery for what we argued was discrimination, retaliation, and harassment against the employee caused only by her broken foot.
If you feel you have be discriminated against or treated differently at work due to an actual or perceived disability, the Los Angeles Discrimination Lawyers at Bibiyan Law Group have the experience and knowledge necessary to guide you through the legal process. Give us a call today and let us fight for you to see if we can get your job back, back pay for missed wages, compensation for emotional distress, and other potential relief for your losses.