medical discrimination in the workplace

Medical discrimination in the workplace is illegal in California. This means that employees have protection against termination or mistreatment based on a medical condition or disability.

Furthermore, their employer must protect their medical information and cannot disclose it without the employee’s permission. Both California and federal law require that employers offer reasonable accommodations to employees with medical conditions. 

If you think that you are the victim of medical discrimination, consult a qualified employment discrimination attorney. 

Can You be Fired for Medical Reasons?

One California law that protects employees against medical discrimination is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This act states clearly that it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire individuals with a physical disability, mental disability, or medical condition. 

Furthermore, employees cannot discharge or terminate an employee because of a medical condition or disability. 

Another prohibited action is refusing to select employees with a medical condition or disability for training that leads to employment. Finally, employees cannot discriminate against employees with a medical condition by changing the compensation, conditions, or privileges of a job.

There is one exception to this rule: employers can fire employees if the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the position due to a medical condition. 

Prior to firing the employee, however, the employer must first offer reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation includes any job modification that allows an employee with a medical condition to perform their job. 

If the reasonable accommodation allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job, the employer cannot terminate the employee unless they show that the accommodation is an undue hardship.

Let’s walk through a couple of examples. 

Example 1

John has a leg condition that prevents him from standing more than two hours at a time. However, John works at an office job, so he never has to stand for more than a few minutes during his shift. Although John has a medical condition, his employer cannot fire him, because John is able to perform his job. If the employer tries to fire John, offers him less pay, or subjects him to jokes or bullying about his condition, John would have a strong medical discrimination case. 

Example 2

Jane works as a police officer for a major city. Unfortunately, she has a heart condition which prevents her from running or doing strenuous activity. If the job’s essential functions include things like chasing after suspects or raiding potential criminal areas, she may face termination because she cannot perform those tasks. However, if she requests reasonable accommodation, her employer has to consider potential accommodations that would allow Jane to perform her job. The employer must grant Jane’s request for an accommodation unless the accommodation would be an undue hardship. One example of a potential accommodation would be reassigning Jane to a desk job. But the city need not create a position as an accommodation. 

How Does FEHA Define “Disability” and “Medical Condition”?

FEHA defines a disability as any physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity. Major life activities include things like walking, dressing, using the restroom, and driving.  Similarly, FEHA defines a medical condition as “any health impairment related to cancer or a record or history of having cancer.” The term can also refer to genetic characteristics that are determined to be associated with an increased risk of developing a disorder or disease. 

Can My Boss Publicly Discuss My Medical Conditions?

No. FEHA states that any employer that receives medical information about an employee must keep that information confidential and prevent any unauthorized disclosure of that sensitive medical information. This means that your boss cannot share your medical information without your prior written authorization. The only exceptions to this rule are if the medical information is compelled by judicial order or is sought for an ongoing legal matter. 

Does FEHA Apply to All Employers?

Almost. FEHA applies to any employers that have five or more employees. 

Let Our Experienced California Employment Discrimination Attorneys Help You

If you think you have been discriminated against by your employer because of a disability or a medical condition, you need to contact a qualified medical discrimination law firm right away. However, it is essential that you pick the right firm because not every firm has experience with medical discrimination cases.  

At the Workplace Rights Law Group, we choose our cases carefully so that we can deliver exceptional and sophisticated customer service. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been able to secure millions of dollars for our clients.

Our attorneys collectively have over 75 years of experience with all kinds of employment cases, including medical discrimination cases.  We’re standing by to give you the assistance you need. All initial consultations are free, so you have nothing to lose by reaching out online or giving us a call at 818-844-5200.  


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