If you search for online content about living with a disability, it will not take long to find Ted Talks, YouTube videos, and Instagram posts that make it sound like the protagonist’s disability is a superpower and not a cause of hardship. Certainly, media representation of people with disabilities is important for dispelling stereotypes and removing social stigma. Those inspiring videos about disability have inspired an unknown number of people with disabilities to pursue career paths they would not otherwise have considered, and they may have encouraged employers to hire job applicants with disabilities. The part of the story that the feel-good videos about people with disabilities who are awesome at their jobs sometimes leave out is that those employees have requested and received reasonable accommodations from their employers. (To be fair, if you look hard enough, you can probably also find content about advocating for yourself at work when you have a disability.) A social worker who uses a wheelchair can build a great rapport with teen mothers, only if she is able to meet with them through video chat or in wheelchair accessible locations. It would not be fair of her employer to assign her to visit a client in the client’s apartment on the second story of a building with no elevator. Making reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities is not just good manners; it is the law. The Irvine disability and reasonable accommodation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you request disability accommodations from your employer and resolve disputes about accommodation requests you have made.
Legal Protections for Employees and Job Applicants With Disabilities in Irvine
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) established disability as a protected characteristic based on which it is illegal to discriminate against employees and prospective employees. Other examples of protected characteristics include race, gender, family status, religion, and age. The law defines a disability as any health condition that presents challenges to performing everyday tasks. Some disabilities are the result of health conditions with which the person was born, and others result from injuries and illnesses that the person suffered later in life. Mental illnesses, in addition to physical injuries and chronic physical illnesses, can qualify as disabilities if they interfere with an employee’s ability to do a job for which they are qualified. Employment discrimination can take the form of the following actions, among others:
- Rejecting an employee’s job application
- Creating a hostile work environment through verbal harassment and other forms of mistreatment
- Terminating the employment relationship
- Unfairly negative performance reviews
- Denial of raises and promotions for which the employee qualifies
- Retaliating against an employee who complains about any of these actions
Your legal protection from employment discrimination based on your disability begins before your first day on the job. In fact, it applies at every stage of the pre-employment process. That means that your prospective employer must also provide reasonable accommodations upon request during the interview process and job training.
Requesting Reasonable Accommodations and Dealing With Pushback From Your Employer in Irvine
The ADA requires employers and prospective employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job seekers who need them. The California Fair Housing and Employment Act also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. A reasonable accommodation is a modification to the work environment, job duties, or work schedule that enables the employee with a disability to perform the work. These are some accommodations that an employer might make for workers with disabilities:
- Installing a wheelchair-accessible desk
- Adding a text to speech function on a company-issued phone for a blind employee
- Assigning an employee who relies on the local van transportation service for people with disabilities to work when that transportation service is available instead of in the middle of the night
- Assigning an employee with narcolepsy to work at night
- Assigning an employee with history of seizures to work at the host stand or restaurant of a Dave & Buster’s location, instead of in the game room where there are flashing lights
One criterion for a reasonable accommodation is that the worker is able to do the job with the accommodation but unable to do the job without it. Another criterion is that the accommodation does not pose an undue financial hardship for the employer. The requirement to make reasonable accommodations only applies to companies with five or more employees. The operating budget of the smallest businesses simply is not big enough.
Since the employer must make the accommodations at its own expense, disputes about what constitutes a reasonable accommodation are common. California law enjoins employers to work with employees to agree on acceptable accommodations. It outlines a negotiation process that should begin no later than when the employee discloses their disability or requests an accommodation. The employer should offer to provide accommodations when they have reason to believe that the employee might need them, such as if the employee uses up all their sick leave days or unpaid leave. When requesting accommodations, employees are required to reveal very little information about their medical history.
It is against the law for employers to terminate employees’ jobs or otherwise take adverse actions against employees for requesting reasonable accommodations. Requesting disability accommodations is a protected action, just like reporting illegal activity by the employer, taking a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, voting in an election, or filing a discrimination complaint. Adverse actions include demotions, negative performance reviews, denial of raises and promotions, creating a hostile work environment, and reassigning the employee to an undesirable schedule or set of tasks. If your employer started treating you differently after you requested a disability accommodation, the Irvine employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Disability Discrimination in Irvine
HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP represents employees whose employers have fired them or retaliated against them when they requested reasonable accommodations for a disability. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Irvine, California to set up a consultation.