Disability Discrimination

Miller Wilmers APC Employment Attorneys Understand Disability Discrimination

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 20.3 percent of the American labor force has a physical or mental disability. Just like their coworkers, these employees are contributing to the success of the companies they work for and the overall financial health of our economy.

Yet, some employers fail to see past their employees' disabilities and refuse to provide them with the same opportunities as the rest of their staff because they are worried about liability, concerned with the costs of accommodation, or simply hold a bias against them. Our experienced California disability discrimination lawyers are able to assist you with employment law cases or situations requiring professional care.

Disability discrimination can be both mental and physical. Miller Wilmers APC, a Los Angeles, California law firm, was founded by a veteran who has seen first hand the assumptions and weariness others may have for someone who is even perceived to have the capability for a disability such as PTSD. While most employers do right by their employees, some employers and specific managers take hash stances on employees they may deem 'defective'. 


According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment of 2008 (or, the Act), it is illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, advancements, compensation, job training, and conditions and privileges of employment.

Some examples of disability discrimination may include:

  • Showing prejudice on the basis of disability in all employment-related activities
  • Harassing an employee on the basis of his or her disability
  • Asking job applicants questions about their past or current medical conditions or requiring job applicants to take medical exams
  • Creating or maintaining a workplace that includes substantial physical barriers to the movement of people with physical disabilities
  • Refusing to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities that would allow them to work

In order to be protected under the Act, you must satisfy your employer's requirements for the job, such as possessing the right experience and education and be able to perform the essential duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Accommodations by an employer may include making existing facilities readily accessible to employees with disabilities, restructuring the job, or acquiring or modifying equipment.

To remain compliant, a company may be required, for instance, to provide a low vision aid so an employee with a vision impairment can read a computer screen. However, a worker with a disability that renders him unable to lift boxes but wants to work in a warehouse would not be covered under the Act, as lifting heavy objects is an essential function of the position.

A disability does not affect your ability to make a difference in the workplace. However, if you have been harassed on the job, denied a job, or denied reasonable accommodations to meet your needs, Miller and Wilmers APC will fight for your right to work. 

Information about Disability Discrimination in California

Under California law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), passed in 1974, protects disabled employees from being discriminated against in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is its federal counterpart. The ADA defines the term “disability” as having a “physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit one or more important life activities.” However, the FEHA has a broader and more forgiving definition that makes it easier to file a claim. Under the FEHA, a disability can be defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life function, such as working. Under the FEHA, stress, anxiety, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, frequent urination, and PTSD would all qualify as disabilities. Of course, more serious medical conditions, such as lupus, cancer and multiple sclerosis are covered as well.

In order to be protected under disability discrimination laws, an employee must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Have a physical or mental condition limiting a major life activity;
  • Have a record or history of a condition; OR
  • Is regarded as having an impairment and subjected to discrimination as a result of the perceived impairment.

California discrimination laws also protect employees who take care of people who have disabilities, in certain circumstances. So, if you have a child or parent with a disability you may be protected under the FEHA.

Types of Disability Discrimination

There are some obvious types of disability discrimination in the workplace such as being fired or demoted; not getting hired for a job; or having your work hours reduced because of a disability. Other less obvious types of disability discrimination include being bullied, teased, or ostracized by your co-workers.

An employer can also be liable under the FEHA if a disabled employee requests an accommodation, and the employer either refuses to accommodate the employee or to discuss alternative solutions. These accommodations can be as simple as giving an employee a break every two hours to go to the bathroom or close his or her strained eyes, or allowing an employee to leave work an hour early once a week to attend a medical appointment. Other accommodations employees commonly request include alterations to their work stations or time off. An employer may not retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation.

Size of Employers Covered

The ADA generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees and applicants of employers with five or more employees.

*Author's Note: Caleb A. Miller here. For my Veterans, this type of discrimination will be most common in your employment opportunities now or in the future. I have personally seen the effect military service has on the perception future employers or managers may have on you. If you suffer from any physical or mental disability for which you receive a VA disability rating, your manager or employer may attempt to comment on that. Something such as "you don't need the same raise because you receive disability" or "I know you receive disability, so it doesn't make sense to give you this benefit" This is illegal. I have been in your shoes, I have served and I get it. If you find yourself in this situation contact our office immediately. 

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