A disability should not block a qualified person from gainful employment. An employee with a disability should also have equal access to a civil workplace.
If a former, current, or prospective employer mistreated you because of a disability, state and federal laws give you the right to seek compensation, accommodations, and other legal relief.
State and Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers cannot discriminate against a qualified employee or a job applicant because of their disability.
Also, employers need to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.
How to Prove Discrimination Based on Disability
- You had a disability, or your employer believed that you had a disability at the time of the violation;
- You were qualified to perform the job in question; and
- The employer mistreated you because of your disability.
Take a look at the following information about how to prove disability discrimination occurred in your workplace.
Proving Disability Status
To enjoy legal protections against disability discrimination, you must first prove that you have a covered disability or that your employer perceived you to have a covered disability.
A covered disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
To prove your history with a disability, you may need to submit medical records, doctor notes, or pictures.
And to prove that an employer believed that you had a disability, you may need to provide correspondence or witness testimony about disability-related statements from your employer.
Proving Your Job Qualifications
Many employers violate anti-discrimination laws by firing, refusing to hire or promote, or refusing to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
These employment practices are illegal if employers exclude or ignore individuals who can perform the essential functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation.
So, what is an essential job function? Essential job functions are the basic duties of a job.
Another way to look at it is if a particular function is not essential, an employer cannot insist that you be able to perform it as a condition for the job.
To prove a function is not essential, you may need to prove that:
- The function is not the reason that the job exists;
- Several other employees are available to perform the function; and
- Performance of the function does not require significant expertise or skill.
You can prove the importance or unimportance of a job duty by providing job descriptions and testimony about what the work entails.
You can also confirm your qualifications with documents regarding your education, job history, employment commendations, and relevant licenses.
Proving Discriminatory Treatment
There are three ways an employer can engage in illegal disability discrimination:
- They can make an adverse employment decision against you (e.g., firing, refusing to hire, reducing benefits, etc.);
- They can refuse to provide you with a reasonable accommodation for your disability; or
- They can subject you to harassment.
While there are many similarities, proving each kind of unlawful may require different types of evidence. Below, let’s take a look at how to prove disability discrimination for each kind of scenario.
Negative employment decisions
An employer’s bias against your disability when making employment decisions could be overt or covert.
If you or another person in your workplace can testify about (or provide documentation of) comments your employer has made about your disability before denying you work or pay, that is proof of overt, unlawful discrimination.
To prove that there is covert, discriminatory bias, you will likely need to prove that your employer treated you differently from similarly qualified individuals without your disability or that your employer’s explanation for its decision does not make sense.
You can often prove covert bias through:
- Witness testimony,
- Personnel records,
- Work commendations,
- Work history,
- Documentation of your qualifications, and
- Job descriptions.
Gather as much of this information on your own as you legally can and take it to an experienced workplace discrimination attorney.
Your attorney can guide you on the steps to take to file a complaint or lawsuit against your employer.
Refusal to accommodate
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees and job applicants with disabilities.
An accommodation is reasonable if it does not cause undue hardship to an employer, meaning it is not too expensive or disruptive to the workplace.
You can prove an accommodation is reasonable by providing information about the expense of the accommodation and how the accommodation would affect your workplace.
You can also provide correspondence or witness testimony regarding accommodation requests you have made.
To prove unlawful disability-based harassment, you need to provide evidence that an individual in your workplace engaged in unwanted, offensive behavior that was based on your disability and was so extreme or pervasive that a reasonable person would call your workplace hostile.
This hostile behavior can include offensive jokes, disrespectful gestures, name-calling, insults, exclusion, and non-consensual touching.
Correspondence, employment records, copies of complaints, and witness testimony can help you prove the hostile conduct occurred.
If you are a victim of this behavior, you must prove that your employer had control over your harasser, knew about the harassment, and failed to take proper action to address the harassment.
You also need to prove that you did not unreasonably fail to use your employer’s complaint procedures to resolve the issues, so it is important that you formally complain about harassment immediately.
Our Disability Discrimination Attorneys Can Help
The best way to win an employment discrimination case is with the help of a skilled discrimination attorney.
At Workplace Rights Group, we have 75 combined years of experience, and our California employment attorneys’ prior work with employers gives us the edge when fighting for employees.