Your Rights Under Pregnancy and/or Maternity Leave
September 2, 2016
Protecting Your Job When Suffering from a Physical Disability, Medical Condition, or Mental Illness
September 20, 2016
People with physical disabilities, medical conditions, or mental illnesses are often treated unfairly and illegally by their employers. Managers do not like the idea of giving an employee time off for doctors appointments, allowing additional break times, or changing an employee's schedule to accommodate their needs versus the needs of the company. However, California law protects employees who need additional accommodations to work, and employees with qualifying disabilities or medical conditions are protected from illegal discrimination or termination.
California law almost always prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. An employer who discriminates against a person because of his/her disability may do so only if the employer can demonstrate that:
1. The person is unable to perform the essential functions of the job, and that no reasonable accommodation exists that would enable the person to perform the essential functions of the job, or
2. The person would create an imminent and substantial danger to himself/herself or a substantial danger to others by performing the job; and that no reasonable accommodation can be made to remove or reduce the danger.
It is not a legally acceptable excuse for discrimination for an employer to claim that there is a possibility of future harm to the person or to others, or that employing individuals with a disability will cause an employer's insurance rates to rise. Termination or discrimination based on those reasons are illegal.
To protect yourself at work, it is important that your manager and human resources knows that you have a physical disability or medical condition. You do not have to tell them the exact disability or condition, you simply have to tell them you have one and that you need an accommodation.
Once your employer knows that you have a disability or medical condition, they are required to engage in the interactive process with you, where you can explain to them what type of accommodation you need. Changes to shifts, additional breaks or even additional time off can be considered.
If an employer fails to engage in the interactive process, or fails to offer reasonable accommodations, then they may have violated California law. You should consult an attorney to see whether you have a qualifying disability and whether you are entitled to seek reasonable accommodations.