5 Important Questions Asked about Disability Discrimination and Wrongful Termination

posted by Daniel Stevens  |  Jan 1, 2019 5:40 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Disability Discrimination


Some employees enjoy being challenged in their work while others find pleasure in doing work that doesn’t feel like work at all.  But what about employees who feel like they are being set up for failure? What if you were told you couldn’t work because you weren’t good enough or because you weren’t ‘normal’? What if you were denied an opportunity to work because your physical appearance was different from most people?  There are laws in place that are intended to shield employees or individuals applying for a position who have a disability or who are currently in a position.  But even though these laws exist, discrimination is not an unknown practice in many workplaces. Many employees in California with a disability are made victims of discrimination and wrongful termination

This article touches on some important questions to ask if you or someone you know is being discriminated against at work. 

 Disability Discrimination

1.  How do I know if I am being discriminated against because of my disability?

Whether an employee is being discriminated against based on their disability is the very question to be tried in a courtroom.  An employee who may decide to go down a legal path of answering this question may base that decision on experiencing intense forms of being singled out based on their disability.  Below is an example of an employee who may claim that she was being treated adversely based on her disability. 


Pam, a partially blind employee at a retail store, began experiencing mistreatment at work when she requested better lighting in the stockroom.  Pam had been working in her position for three years and was able to carry out her duties without any issue, up until they began forcing her to work the night shifts.  Although Pam was happy to work the night shift, she needed better lighting in the stockroom to make up for the lack of daylight that normally came through the windows during her day shifts.  When Pam made her request for better lighting, she elaborated on her need for illumination in all areas in which she would be working in order to carry out her duties properly and safely.  After a week with no response to her request, Pam was then written up for poor work performance. 


Here, after further investigation, certain facts may reveal that Pam was being discriminated against for her disability and was also a victim of retaliation for her request for better lighting. Some facts may include that the employer/human resources were on notice of Pam’s disability, that adjusting the lighting was a reasonable accommodation, and perhaps that the write-up had no foundation other than it was made right after she made her request. 


This is just one example of how an employee may identify whether they are being discriminated against because disability discrimination can take various forms.  Some other examples of discrimination may be a demotion, denial of employment benefits, name-calling, teasing, and refusal to make reasonable adjustments. 

 man upset

2.  What is considered a disability?

California employment laws do not recognize every disability.  Most disabilities that are recognized are those that impact an employee’s ability to carry out everyday life activities.  Everyday life activities may include seeing, talking, hearing, walking, or even learning. Some other acknowledged disabilities may also include an employee who is struggling with a past disability such as treatment for a disease or illness.  Lastly, some disabilities that are temporary can even be legally recognized. 


Each employee’s situation is unique and would need to be examined by a legal professional to determine whether the employee has a legally recognized disability as well as if the facts of the case point to discrimination and or wrongful termination.  Wrongful termination in this situation would be if the employee did, in fact, have a legally recognized disability and he or she was fired for having the disability or due to reasons that concerned his or her disability. 

 sad unemployed

3.  How can I protect myself as an employee with a disability? 

As mentioned in the beginning, there are laws in place to protect employees from being treated unfairly and unlawfully at work.  Employees can also take steps to protect themselves.  Some steps may include ensuring that their employer is on notice of their disability, providing all necessary paperwork to the employer confirming the disability, and also putting all complaints and requests for accommodation in writing.  These steps can help keep clear and open communication between the employee and employer. Should there be an issue down the line, the employee will have paperwork to show they made a reasonable effort to communicate their needs to their employer.


 Wrongful Termination

4.  What if I was fired for a bogus reason but I know it was really because of my disability?

Going back to the previous example of Pam, she made a request to have better lighting made available to her in her workspace.  Soon after she made the request she received a poor work performance write-up.  Based on Pam’s disability, the fact that she made a request for accommodation if the accommodation was reasonable, and the timing of when the write-up was assigned, Pam may be able to prove that it is more likely than not that she was retaliated against.  This means that Pam is being singled out and treated unfairly because she made a request to accommodate her disability. 


 Disability discrimination

5.  How do I know if I should take legal action?

Making the choice to pursue legal action against an employer should never be taken lightly. The decision to file an official claim against an employer for discrimination should be an informed decision. An employee or former employee should contact an employment lawyer to discuss the facts of their possible claim against the employer.  The employment lawyer may want to see particular documents and obtain detailed facts about what was said and or done at work surrounding the possible discriminatory acts.  Each claim is unique and must be examined 


Source: 5 Important Questions Asked about Disability Discrimination and Wrongful Termination​

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