What Constitutes Disability Discrimination?

The concept of disability discrimination in the California workplace is something many people may not fully understand. However, it has been known to occur, which is why the federal government specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability. Federal law describes what kinds of people are protected from disability discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission points out that under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act, employers engage in disability discrimination when they mistreat an employed person specifically because the person is disabled. Discrimination can also occur when an employee or a job applicant is treated unfavorably due to a disability history. Such disabilities are not limited to conditions stemming from birth or injuries caused by accidents. They can also include cases where a person has suffered from a medical condition, such as cancer. The cancer could be in remission or at least under control at the time of application or employment.

Employers can also engage in discrimination if they mistreat a worker or an applicant on the basis of the employer’s own personal suspicions about a worker’s condition. For example, employers might suspect a person is mentally or physically impaired for a prolonged-term period of time, beyond six months. Discrimination also takes place if a person is mistreated that is not actually impaired at all but suspected of being such. Additionally, disability discrimination law also protects employees who associate with or have a relationship with disabled persons. Employers might mistreat people not because they are disabled, but because the person is married to an individual who is mentally or physically impaired.

Finally, anti-discrimination law specifies that employers should make reasonable efforts to accommodate employees or job applicants who possess disabilities. Exceptions are only made if the efforts constitute undue hardship for the employer, meaning the employer would incur significant financial costs or accommodation efforts would be very difficult for the employer to achieve.

This article is intended to educate readers on the topic of disability discrimination and should not be taken as legal advice.

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