A team of wheelchair users puts their hands in on a huddle


Robinson Bradford LLP July 28, 2021

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.9% of persons with a disability were employed in 2020. Those with disabilities are much less likely to be employed than those without a disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7 million — or 1 in 4 — adults in California have a disability. If the national statistic is applied, it would mean that more than 1.2 million California employees have a disability.

If you are working with a disability, you may have questions about what your employer is required to accommodate under state and federal laws. The days should be far behind us when those with a disability are kept from pursuing jobs and careers, but that is not always the case. Understanding your rights under the law is where you should begin.

For nearly 20 years, Robinson Bradford LLP has helped employees with disabilities understand the protections afforded to them under the law. We have represented clients in Stockton, Temecula, and Costa Mesa, California in a variety of different employment law matters — and we would be proud to help you too.

What Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Mean for Me?

The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination based on an employee’s disabilities. The Act guarantees reasonable employer accommodation, including changes to a job or physical workplace that allow a qualified employee to perform the duties of their job.

In California, employees are further protected by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the Disabled Persons Act. Employers, housing owners, and businesses are required to make reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities.

Employers may not discriminate against qualified workers with disabilities in recruitment, hiring, firing, training, promotions, wages, benefits, layoffs, and leave policies.

Who is Covered Under the Law?

Under the ADA, you must have, or have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial impairment that substantially limits major life activity. Impairments to hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, learning, working, performing manual tasks, and performing activities of daily living, such as dressing yourself, qualify you for protection under the law.

Furthermore, you must be qualified to perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation to be protected. If your education, experience, knowledge, and other factors do not meet job requirements, there is no employment discrimination.

California law expands protections to those with conditions that limit life activities, including physical and mental disabilities, medical conditions, and HIV/AIDS.

What Does “Reasonable Accommodation” Mean?

Reasonable accommodations are changes made to the workplace, job, or processes that allow a qualified applicant or employee with disabilities to perform the essential duties of the job and enjoy the same benefits as employees without disabilities.

Accommodations can be changes to the physical workplace, such as wheelchair-accessible desks or devices that accommodate vision or hearing disabilities. They can also be alterations to work schedules to allow time, for example, for an employee with cancer to seek medical treatment or fewer hours of work per week. Accommodations might also include having an application or test administered verbally or, for example, available in a braille version.

Is My Employer Required to Provide Accommodations?

Job discrimination is unlawful by private employers, governmental entities, employment agencies, labor organizations, and labor-management committees.

Requirements for providing reasonable accommodation do not apply if those accommodations would place undue hardship on the employer. Large employers can afford the cost of construction, equipment, or furniture to provide reasonable accommodation while a small business may not be able to pay the cost and keep their doors open.

Can My Employer Ask for Proof of Disability?

An employer is prohibited from asking you about your disability or making you provide proof of disability. They are allowed to ask questions to ascertain whether you can perform the duties of a particular job with or without accommodation. Remember, if you don’t meet the requirements of the job, there is no discrimination. For example, if a job requirement is that you hold a college degree and you do not, you are not qualified for that job. They can only ask questions pertinent to the job itself; the same questions they would ask any employee.

An employer also is prohibited from asking you to do something they do not ask all employees to do. If all employees are required to undergo a periodic medical exam, for example, the employer can require it of you as well. Any medical information about you is protected under HIPAA laws and must be kept in a confidential file separate from your employment file.

Allow Robinson Bradford LLP to Help You

As you can tell, employment law can be complicated. There are very fine lines between what employers can and cannot ask or do and what they are required to do under state and federal laws. Even if you read the applicable laws, it is often difficult to understand their application in specific situations. That’s why it is always wise to consult with a California employment law attorney who fully understands the laws and regulations that apply to your unique situation.

At Robinson Bradford LLP, we are fierce and dedicated advocates for employees with disabilities in Stockton, Temecula, and Costa Mesa, California. We believe that anyone qualified to do a job should be allowed to, regardless of disability. If you have a disability and want more information about your protections under the law, call our office to schedule a consultation. We’d be happy to sit down and discuss the details of your circumstances, answer all of your questions, and outline how we can help you. Contact our office today!