Disability discrimination occurs when someone is treated poorly or at a disadvantage because of their mental or physical disability that limits life activities like hearing, learning, talking, or walking. Under the umbrella of disability is also pregnancy, as it can make it hard to stand for long hours or require you to make more frequent trips to the bathroom due to changes with bladder control.
When you have a permanent or temporary disability that qualifies you for reasonable accommodations in the workplace, your employer is obligated to do so unless it would create undue hardship. Undue hardship involves being too costly or difficult to make the changes or that it would negatively impact the business, such as it impacting production rates or leaving a department with no staff.
When you believe you’ve been the victim of disability discrimination in Los Angeles, what do you do next? How do you file a complaint or take action to get treated fairly?
What Are the Laws Regarding Disability Discrimination in Los Angeles?
The federal government has laws regarding disability discrimination through the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This bans discrimination against people with disabilities in workplaces with 15 or more employees, public accommodations, transportation services, and more.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is similar, but it is more restrictive. The requirement that a disability be “substantially limiting” is changed to “limiting.” It also can cover discrimination against any employer with five or more employees. If you are an independent contractor for a company, you’re not protected from discrimination in the workplace. Volunteers or unpaid people are also not protected.
Disability discrimination can be related to a physical condition, but it can also be tied to a mental condition or chronic health condition like diabetes. If a worker needs extra breaks to have a snack to keep blood sugar levels maintained, it would be discriminatory to refuse those extra breaks. California law considers all of these conditions to be physical disabilities:
- Amputations or missing limbs
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic or episodic conditions like COPD, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, hepatitis, HIV, and multiple sclerosis.
- Paralysis or other mobility issues that require wheelchair use
Mental conditions are included if they limit activities of daily living:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Clinical depression
- Cognitive disabilities
- Emotional illnesses
- Mental illness
Pregnancy is also covered under California law. Pregnancy discrimination is illegal and can be related to severe morning sickness, a doctor’s orders to sit down during a shift, and gestational diabetes.
One gray area is morbid obesity. If obesity is severe enough that it makes it hard to stand or walk around a lot and is caused by a physical condition, obesity can be covered by disability discrimination laws.
What isn’t covered? A sprained wrist isn’t going to be covered. Seasonal illnesses like allergies, cuts and abrasions, minor gastrointestinal disorders, and non-migraine headaches are not covered. Addiction to illegal drugs is not an excusable reason for discrimination protections either.
Who Is Allowed to File a Disability Discrimination Complaint in Los Angeles?
Who can file a disability discrimination complaint? If you are the worker, consumer, or other party who was discriminated against, you can file a complaint on your own behalf.
If you are the parent or guardian of a child with a disability who was discriminated against at school, in a government agency, etc., you can file the complaint on behalf of that minor child. If you are an authorized representative, such as the durable POA for an elderly parent, you could also file the complaint.
The Steps to Filing a Disability Discrimination Complaint in Los Angeles
What are the steps to finding a disability discrimination complaint? These steps will help you navigate the process.
Provide the Basis for Your Complaint:
Note the situation and offending agency. Was it a school, a government agency, a business, your landlord, or your employer?
Gather Your Evidence:
You need every piece of evidence you have. Print out and save files pertaining to the discrimination you experienced. Ask any witnesses to write out statements and collect their contact information. The more evidence you have, the better it is for your case. Make sure you include any measures you took to resolve the situation before reaching this point.
For example, you have MS and are having difficulty on stairs. Your office building doesn’t have an elevator and your office is on the second floor. You ask for accommodations and are told no. If the company has the space available for you to have a first-floor office or someone else is willing to switch, they are obligated to do so. Keep track of the communications you get when you make the request and are denied accommodations.
File a Complaint:
Your next step is to file a complaint. Do this by contacting a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in disability discrimination or by filling out a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
You may be asked to attend a mediation hearing where the DFEH mediates the dispute between you and the other party. If that is unsuccessful, your complaint will be investigated. You’ll be asked questions, as will the other party. Witnesses will also be called to give evidence.
If the decision is in your favor, you’ll receive a right-to-sue letter. Take this to a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in disability discrimination. You could try to handle your own case, but it’s always better to bring in a professional with the experience you need to win.
Keep these resources in mind as you build your complaint:
- California Department of Fair Employment and Housing – https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/
- Disability Rights California – https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/
- Los Angeles County Office of Disability Rights – https://disability.lacity.gov/
Don’t forget to provide any information on communication preferences. If you have a vision or hearing impairment, you might need to have large print, text-to-speech, or sign language available. Make people aware of that.
Gain Help From an Expert in Disability Discrimination
While it can seem difficult to file a disability discrimination complaint, there are legal experts who can help you. Schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles employment law firm and ask an attorney for advice. It won’t cost you anything, so do not let the lack of money keep you from filing a complaint.
If you’ve been the victim of disability discrimination, reach out to the professionals at Shegerian Conniff. Our team is here to help you fight for fair treatment. You won’t pay us anything. We take our fee from the settlement or court award. What’s most important to us is that you reach out for guidance. If you’ve been discriminated against, it’s not okay. Schedule that initial conversation online or by phone.