How Do You Prove Disability Discrimination in California? 

proving disability discrimination

Are you a qualified employee or job applicant who happens to have a disability?

If so, you should have the same access to job opportunities and work benefits as everyone else.

You should also be treated with respect. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act protect individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination.

If your employer does not respect these protections, you have the right to seek legal action.

At Starpoint Employment Lawyers, our employment attorneys work fast and are successful at winning justice for employees. 

What Is a Disability? 

The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

California’s anti-discrimination law includes the ADA’s definition.

California law also includes cosmetic disfigurement and ailments such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis in its disability definition.

Generally, psychoactive substance use disorders, compulsive gambling, pyromania, kleptomania, and sexual behavior disorders are not disabilities protected under California law. 

What Is Disability Discrimination?

Under federal and California law, disability discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats a qualified employee or job applicant unfavorably because of their disability or disability history.

Employers can also be liable for discriminating against individuals with perceived disabilities or association with others who have disabilities. 

A qualified employee is someone who can perform the essential functions of the job in question.

Essential job functions are the basic duties that an employee needs to perform for their specific job.

Unlawful and actionable discrimination can factor into many workplace scenarios, including:

  • Job termination,
  • Demotion,
  • Pay cut,
  • Unequal pay,
  • Denial of employment benefits or opportunities,
  • Harassment,
  • Refusal to provide reasonable accommodation,
  • Biased job advertisements,
  • Non-accessible job application processes, and
  • Failure to promote.

If you suffer any of these workplace harms because of a disability, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You can also file a lawsuit.

How to Prove Disability Discrimination in the Workplace Cases

When it is time to hold an employer legally accountable for disability discrimination, how do you prove your case?

In many cases, you need to show the government agency or court that: 

  • You were qualified for the job,
  • You have or had a disability, and 
  • Your disability was your employer’s motivation for adverse treatment. 

If yours is a harassment case, you need to show that offensive workplace conduct created a hostile work environment.

And if you were denied accommodation, you need to show that the accommodation would not have been an undue burden on your employer (i.e., not too expensive or difficult to provide).

Proving You Are Qualified

There are many ways to prove you are qualified for a job.

Some helpful ways can include providing job descriptions from job postings, training materials, employer correspondence, and employee onboarding documents.

Witness testimony about duties can be helpful as well.

Proving You Have a Disability

Proof of a disability often comes from medical or healthcare records and testimony.

If the discrimination is based on a perceived disability, you might need proof of employer statements (or nonverbal conduct) regarding your mental or physical abilities. 

Proving Disability Was Your Employer’s Motivation for Adverse Treatment

You can prove disability discrimination directly if you have documents or testimony regarding statements your employer has made about your disability.

If you don’t have this direct evidence, you can use documents and testimony to prove that your employer treated you differently compared to similarly situated employees without your disability.

This evidence could include:

  • Employer correspondence,
  • Employer policies,
  • Job advertisements,
  • Application forms,
  • Personnel records,
  • Legally acquired recordings, and
  • Witness testimony.

If you are unsure how to prove your case, speak to an experienced employment attorney. 

We Advocate for Your Rights

We work hard at Starpoint Employment Lawyers to improve Southern California workplaces.

Our experienced attorneys give our clients one-on-one attention to fulfill their unique legal needs, and we win large settlements for wronged employees.

We are available if you need a champion. Contact us today at 310-424-9971 or online for a consultation.

Author Photo

Aidin Ghavimi

Aidin is a partner at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, and focuses on personal injury cases in and around Southern California. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Loyola School of Law and his Bachelor’s from USC. Aidin’s primary goal is to bring justice to his clients and to ensure they are able to move on with their lives after a serious injury.

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