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California Law and Discrimination Based on a Disability

California Law and Discrimination Based on a Disability

California Law and Discrimination Based on a Disability

Living with a disability poses myriad problems that impact all areas of life, especially when it comes to dealing with a disability in the workplace. Unfortunately, some employers dismiss the legal protections granted to workers. According to both California and federal law, disability discrimination represents the unlawful treatment of an individual based on the person’s disability.

To qualify for protection under federal and California law, a disabled worker must complete a job’s essential functions. If an employee requires a reasonable accommodation to perform his or her job, then the employer has a legal obligation to provide the reasonable accommodation. However, if providing a reasonable accommodation becomes an expensive burden for a company, then the company might not have to provide the reasonable accommodation.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The United States Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) with the explicit intent to provide, “clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” Employers with at least 15 workers must follow the guidelines established by the ADA. The ADA also defines disability, as well as the meaning of reasonable accommodation.

Enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the ADA dramatically changed how employers treated disabled workers. The EEOC handles complaints filed by workers that concern violations of the ADA and in some cases, the EEOC takes action against employers by filing an action in a federal court.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act

Twenty-one years before the enactment of the ADA, the California legislature wrote a groundbreaking law that many states have used as a model for passing anti-discrimination statutes. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers with five or more workers to comply with the landmark discrimination law. The FEHA lists four general categories of workplace discrimination.

  • Physical disabilities
  • Mental disabilities
  • Medical conditions
  • Genetic conditions

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces every section of the FEHA, with the legal purpose to “ensure discrimination-free access to employment opportunities notwithstanding any individual’s actual or perceived disability or medical condition.”


The ADA does not prohibit state and municipal governments from adopting stricter disability discrimination laws. For example, California requires employers with a minimum of five employees to comply with the FEHA, while the ADA covers employers that have 15 or more workers. In addition to employee coverage, the definition of a disability is legally broader under the FEHA as opposed to the ADA. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two disability discrimination laws is the ADA limits the amount of monetary damages awarded in a civil lawsuit, while the FEHA does not place any restrictions on monetary damages.

If you face discrimination in the workplace because of a disability, you should consider pursuing legal action by referring to the FEHA.

Work with an Experienced Employment Attorney

Proving discrimination of any kind in the workplace can be a difficult mission to accomplish. However, by working with a California employment attorney, the chances of getting a favorable ruling increase substantially. Your lawyer can help you collect the type of evidence you need to convince a civil court judge to award you monetary damages. Another reason to hire a California employment lawyer is your attorney might be able to negotiate a settlement that avoids the stress caused by a civil trial.

Call the PLBSH Law Firm at (800) 435-7542 or submit our online form to schedule a free case evaluation.

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