What is Disability Discrimination? Disability discrimination occurs when an employer bases employment decisions or employee treatment on his or her disability. Disability discrimination could lead to some of the following: failing to hire; the loss of certain opportunities; termination; lost promotions; pay cuts; unequal pay; demotions; poor assignments; discriminative comments. Although cases of disability discrimination can have similarities; they can be very different.
Consider some of the hypothetical scenarios below:
- An employee suffers an accident that results in a permanent disability. When the employee returns to work, he is accommodated; however, his employer begins treating him differently. His employer assigns him certain tasks that are redundant, menial, and generally undesirable. The employer also fails to provide the employee with the same opportunities for growth as are provided to other employees in the company. The employee is often overlooked for important projects, bonuses, and promotions – all of which he is qualified for.
- A disabled employee is hired at a company. With a change in management, the employee noticed a severe difference in the way she was treated. Specifically, her new superiors always joked about her disability, often making inappropriate and insensitive comments. Eventually, the employer moves to demote the disabled employee. The demotion comes with a significant pay cut. The employee’s poor treatment continues until she is terminated.
- An employee develops a disability that makes it painful for him to perform his job. He requests a reasonable accommodation – specifically, a standing desk to ensure that he can perform his work without any difficulties. The employer agrees, but takes no action. Upon inquiry, the employer constantly makes excuses. The employee’s job performance begins to suffer because of the lack of accommodation. Eventually, the employer terminates the employee based on the poor performance directly caused by the lack of reasonable accommodation.
Although most employees are unaffected, disability discrimination is a real problem. Employees who have been subjected to disability discrimination must take action against their employers and exercise their rights in the workplace.
Statistics on Disability Discrimination
Many people claim that disability discrimination does not exist. In a perfect world, employers would treat all their employees equally – regardless of physical or mental capabilities. Data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that the number of disability discrimination claims filed in the U.S. has risen. In 2006, more than 28,000 claims were filed. In 2014, more than 38,000 claims were filed. The same trend can be seen within the state of California. In 2006, more than 2,000 claims were filed. In 2006, more than 3,700 claims were filed. Disability discrimination was a serious problem decades ago, and it continues to be pervasive in the workplace.
Reports from 2008 showed that 8.5% of people of working age (ages 21 – 64) had some sort of disability. This reflects almost 1.8 million people in the entire state living with at least one disability. Recent statistics from the CDC show that more than 20% of all adults in the state of California have a disability. Considering that California has a population of 4 million and has more than 2 million employees, it is not hard to believe that a significant portion of these employees are disabled – and dealing with disability discrimination in the workplace on a daily basis.
About the Laws that Prohibit Disability Discrimination
There are a number of important laws both on the federal and state level that prohibit disability discrimination and makes it illegal for employers to treat their employees unfavorably simply due to their disability. There are also laws that establish the right of employees to take time off from work to focus on their health, including in instances in which they are suffering with disabilities.
These laws include the following:
- The Americans with Disability Act (ADA)
- The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
- The California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
These laws will prove to be the most relevant laws when it comes to dealing with disability discrimination in the workplace and taking action against your employer. If your employer discriminated against you in violation of any of the laws mentioned above, you will likely have grounds to pursue legal action and hold your employer accountable for his or her discriminative actions towards you.
Is the Failure to Accommodate Disabled Employee Discrimination?
Some disabilities can make it difficult for employees to perform their job duties without some sort of accommodation. These accommodations might include physical changes to the workplace, making changes in the specific technology to make it more accessible, making changes with communication in the workplace to make it accessible for disabled employees, and making changes to certain workplace policy to accommodate disabled employees (such as allowing time off from work, making changes in schedules, and giving a work-from-home option, for example). The ADA, besides making it illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled employees, requires that employers provide employees with reasonable accommodation – given that providing such accommodation does not result in undue hardship. In addition to the ADA, the FMLA, and the CFRA all establish the employee right to reasonable accommodation, including time away from work.
Did your employer fail to provide you with a reasonable accommodation? If your employer did not provide you with a reasonable accommodation, even though doing so would not lead to undue hardship, you will likely have grounds to pursue a claim. The failure to accommodate a disabled employee without a legitimate reason is equivalent to disability discrimination. You should hold your employer accountable for his or her actions.
What Can You Do after Suffering Disability Discrimination?
Disability discrimination in the workplace is not something that should be taken lightly. Disabled employees are often subject to unfair treatment in the workplace – no one deserves to experience that. In general, the lack of information (and even misinformation) leads to victimized employees not taking the proper action against their employers.
What action could employees that experienced disability discrimination take against their employers? What are the different options available to employees discriminated against based on their disability? In general, there are at least three options available for employees who have suffered disability discrimination in the workplace. These include pursuing a claim with a federal employment agency, pursuing a claim with a state employment agency, and pursuing a civil lawsuit independently, for example.
You could pursue a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is the federal employment agency responsible for enforcing federal employment laws and handling claims when they arise. The EEOC specifically handles claims that are connected to federal anti-discrimination laws, such as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. When you file a claim with the EEOC, a claim with a state-level employment agency is automatically filed.
If you are located in California, you could pursue a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH is the Californian state employment agency that is responsible for enforcing state employment laws, as well as handling employment claims when they arise. The DFEH handles claims that arise due to the violation of certain state employment laws, such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). When employees file claims with the DFEH, claims are also automatically filed with the EEOC.
What do these agencies do? What can theses agencies do for you and your claim? These agencies will investigate your claim and take action against your employer if deemed necessary. In general, when these agencies find that employers have violated employment laws, they pursue lawsuits against them, usually resulting in employees recovering some sort of compensation. However, employees who have been subject to disability discrimination also have the option of pursuing a civil lawsuit independently.
You could pursue a civil lawsuit against your employer with the assistance of a disability discrimination attorney. Before pursuing a civil lawsuit, you will have to be granted the right to sue from the EEOC or DFEH (whichever agency with which you filed your claim). You will then be able to pursue a civil lawsuit against your employer and fight for your right to recover the damages that you deserve.
If you would like to learn more about the different options available to you and which option might be better for your specific situation, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with experts on disability discrimination in the workplace as soon as possible.
Could You Recover Compensation?
If you suffered disability discrimination, could you recover compensation? Without a doubt, you might be eligible to receive compensation if you were the victim of disability discrimination? Is there a specific type of compensation that you might be eligible to receive? How much compensation could you receive if your claim is successful? Have you found yourself asking these questions?
It is normal to want to know more about the specific type and amount of compensation that you might be eligible to receive. In fact, many victims of discrimination in the workplace do not pursue claims against their employers until after learning more about the specific compensation that they might recover. Although every claim is different, you should be aware of some of the categories of compensation that might be available for recovery, as listed below:
- Lost wages – compensation for all wages lost as a direct result of the disability discrimination. Depending on the circumstances, this might include compensation for any lost bonuses, lost opportunities for pay raises, and lost income due to termination, for example.
- Lost benefits – compensation for the different work-related benefits (health insurance, life insurance, stocks, retirement plans) lost as a direct result of the disability discrimination suffered.
- Pain and suffering – compensation for the mental and emotional distress caused by the disability discrimination to which the employee was subjected. Although every victim of disability discrimination is affected differently, some of the common mental and emotional afflictions caused by disability discrimination include depression, PTSD, anxiety, and embarrassment, for example.
- Punitive damages – compensation awarded as a form of punishment to the defendant. This form of compensation is not common. The main purpose of this compensation is to ensure that the defendant does not discriminate against other employees in the future.
In addition to the compensation listed above, claimants might also be eligible to be compensated in other ways, including but not limited to the following: hiring; reinstatement; promotion; required training for employer/staff; policy changes for the workplace; reasonable accommodation; legal fees; out-of-pocket expenses.
For many victims of disability discrimination, the trouble of going through the process of pursuing a claim against their employers might not be worth the compensation that they could recover. Because of this, it is essential that claimants understand the different factors that could affect the value of their claims (and the type/amount of compensation that they could receive).
Consider the following information. Disability discrimination can lead to termination. When directly compared, a case that resulted in termination will likely be worth more than a case that did not result in termination. This is due to the fact that that the case that led to termination is likely eligible to recover a significant amount in lost income. Although cases that to not involve termination can include the loss of income due to missed promotions, pay raises, or even pay cuts, the lost wages awarded are never as significant as those for claims that result in termination. If you would like to learn more about the different factors that could affect the value of your claim and the compensation that you could receive, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with disability discrimination attorneys as soon as possible.
Understanding Important Compensation Limits
The specific action that you take against your employer could affect the type and amount of compensation that you might be eligible to recover. For example, if a victim of disability discrimination pursues a claim with the EEOC, he or she would be subjected to specific compensation limits. The limits implemented by the EEOC are specifically based on the size of the employer. Consider the following points:
- Claims involving employers with 15-100 employees result in a limit of $50,000.
- Claims involving employers with 101-200 employees result in a limit of $100,000.
- Claims involving employers with 201-500 employees result in a limit of $200,000.
- Claims involving employers with more than 500 employees (500+) result in a limit of $300,000.
As mentioned above, these limits apply to EEOC claims. For more information about any compensation caps (limits) that might apply to your claim, you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Seeking legal assistance ensures that you have all the information that you need to understand your claim in its entirety.
Important Timelines to Consider
You were subject to disability discrimination; now, what? You have the right to sue and fight for your right to be compensated, but you could lose this right. The possibility of losing the right to sue is based on a statute of limitations. What is a statute of limitations? A statute of limitations is simply a deadline that applies to a claim. All claims are subject to statutes of limitations that determine the specific length of time that they have to pursue their claims. What happens if these statutes of limitations are ignored? If these deadlines are ignored and claims are not filed within the appropriate length of time, claimants will undeniably lose their right to take legal action.
Are you willing to lose your right to sue based on the failure to file your claim within the allowed length of time? If not, you should be familiar with the specific deadlines that usually apply to disability discrimination claims:
- Claimants have 180 days to pursue claims with the EEOC. In California and other states with agencies similar to the EEOC, this extends to 300 days.
- Claimants have 90 days to pursue civil lawsuits against their employers after being granted the right-to-sue from the EEOC.
- Claimants have 1 year to pursue claim with the DFEH.
- Claimants have 1 year to pursue civil lawsuits against their employers after being granted the right-to-sue from the DFEH.
You might have noticed that the right-to-sue is mentioned twice in the points above. The right-to-sue establishes your right to pursue civil action against your employer. All employment claims must go through specific employment agencies (such as the EEOC or DFEH, for example); claimants can only take civil action against their employers after being granted the right-to-sue from the specific employment agency. After receiving the right-to-sue, claimants are subjected to specific deadlines (such as 90 days and 1 year, for example).
Besides being familiar with the strict timelines implemented after being granted the right to sue, victims of disability discrimination must also be familiar with the different things that could result in the statute of limitations being tolled (paused). Because so many things could affect the length of time that you have to pursue your claim, do not hesitate to seek the expertise of a lawyer to learn more about the deadlines that apply to your claim.
The Important Steps to follow after being Subjected to Disability Discrimination
After being subjected to disability discrimination, it is important that victimized employees take the appropriate action to eventually be able to pursue a claim against their employer. Without a doubt, pursuing a claim might not be the first thing that victims consider. In fact, most victims of disability discrimination need some time to come to terms with the discrimination that they experienced. Although taking legal action might not be the first thing on your mind, it is essential that you collect evidence and get the tools necessary to pursue a claim. We recommend that all victims of disability discrimination do the following, even if they are not thinking of filing a claim at the moment:
- Keep a record of all instances in which you were the victim of disability discrimination, including dates, times, and general summary of the incident. You should try to make a note of specific actions or phrases that were used against you.
- You should identify witnesses and ensure that you have their contact information. You should ask witnesses if they would be willing to testify in your favor if you take action against the employer.
- You should report the incident to Human Resources. You should report every incident, and you should request copies of every report.
- You should speak with your superiors, including managers and supervisors. You should have a conversation about the discrimination that you believe you are suffering. You should also document these conversations.
- You should report the disability discrimination that you suffered with the appropriate agency (such as the EEOC or the DFEH).
- You should seek legal assistance with the experts at a disability discrimination law firm.
Without a doubt, there are many things that you could do to gather to eventually bring a claim against your employer. Even if you are not currently thinking about filing a lawsuit (immediately after suffering discrimination), it is important that you understand the need to prepare. Ultimately, it is better to be prepared to file a claim and decide not to file at a later time than to decide to file and find that you didn’t prepare immediately after suffering discrimination. If you would like to learn more about the things that you could do to prepare to take action after suffering disability discrimination, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
A Review of Past Disability Discrimination Cases
Because disability discrimination has been a constant issue in a number of workplaces over the years, there is a lot of information available surrounding past cases. Although claimants should never make any assumptions about their claims based on past claims, reviewing past claims can be beneficial – especially in terms of understanding potential outcomes.
Consider some of the following past cases:
- Harold Carter v. Federal Express Corporation. The employee, Harold Carter, suffered a workplace injury that needed surgery to address. Carter’s doctor placed him on certain work restrictions for the months of January and February of 2015. In May of the same year, Carter returned to work, having been cleared by his surgeon. Upon his return to work, Carter claimed that he was had certain work restrictions. According to the claim, FedEx failed to accommodate Carter and terminated him. The claimant filed a claim against his employer for disability discrimination, failure to engage in the interactive process, failure to accommodate, and retaliation. According to the defense, the claimant was terminated solely based on company policy; he had received a total of three disciplinary letters in a 12-month-period. The defense was able to prove that the claimant would have been fired even if he had not been disabled due to the work injury. However, the jury held that the company failed to engage in the interactive process as well as providing the claimant with a reasonable accommodation. The claimant was awarded more than $5,317,000 in past/future economic damages and past/future emotional distress.
- Virginia Hoover v. Dignity Health, St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital, and St. John’s Healthcare Foundation Oxnard and Pleasant Valley. The claimant, Virginia Hoover, suffered a work-related injury to her shoulder. She was cleared to return to work with two restrictions (not lifting or reaching) with the injured arm. According to the claimant, the hospital failed to provide her with an accommodation or provide her with an alternative position; instead, the hospital terminated her. The claimant held that she could have effectively performed the functions of her job with an accommodation. The claimant also held that the employer had previously provided accommodations for other employees in the same department. The jury sided with Hoover on all her claims, awarding her more than $1.02 million for past/future economic damages and emotional distress.
- Lucia Cortex v. Chipotle Mexican Grill. The plaintiff, Lucia Cortez, was an assistant manager at the restaurant. After suffering a miscarriage, she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. Cortez took three months of unpaid leave. She requested an additional six weeks of leave. Cortez claimed that the employer allowed the extension but later rescinded it. When Cortex failed to show up to work, she was terminated. Although the claimant was effectively disabled at the time of her termination, she was not directly fired because of her disability; rather, she was fired for failing to return to work after her leave. The jury issued a defense verdict due to these reasons.
- Anahit Shirvanyan v. Los Angeles Community College District. In 2014, a kitchen worker at Los Angeles Valley College was diagnosed with a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome. She requested a reasonable accommodation on many instances; her requests were always ignored. She frequently complained of her pain to her supervisor, but the supervisor never took her seriously – questioning her splint and ignoring her requests. In late 2015, she suffered an arm injury that resulted in her being on medical leave for three months. During this time, the claimant’s contract with the district expired. She claimed that the district allowed her contract to expire without informing her. She sued the district for disability discrimination, the failure to engage in the interactive process, and the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. The jury awarded the claimant more than $2.8 million in past/future economic losses and past/future non-economic losses.
If you would like a more in-depth discussion of past cases relevant to disability discrimination, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with employment experts. You have rights as an employee, and you have the right to hold your employer accountable for his or her actions.
The Need for Legal Assistance – California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group
After suffering disability discrimination, the last thing on your mind might be to pursue legal action against your employer. Depending on how you were directly affected by the disability discrimination that you suffered, your priorities might be to overcome the mental/emotional distress caused by your mistreatment or finding another job, for example. However, you might eventually find yourself thinking about pursuing a disability discrimination claim against your employer – and you will need the assistance of an experienced employment discrimination lawyer.
If you find yourself needing the legal assistance of an employment lawyer with experience in disability discrimination, do not hesitate to contact the experts at California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group. California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is an employment law firm with many years of experience handling a variety of employment claims, including disability discrimination claims. At our law firm, we are dedicated to representing the victims of disability discrimination and ensuring that they recover the compensation that is rightfully theirs. Because we are familiar with the difficulties that parties affected by disability discrimination are likely to suffer, we ensure that all victims of disability discrimination have access to our legal services. We offer both free consultations and free second opinions. If you are interested in either a free consultation or free second opinion, do not hesitate to contact our law firm as soon as possible. During our free consultations and free second opinions, our knowledgeable lawyers will be available to answer all your questions, address all your concerns, and provide you with all the information that you need to begin or continue a claim against your employer. If you would like to discuss your claim with our disability discrimination experts, do not hesitate to contact us.
Our firm offers a strict Zero-Fee guarantee that ensures that our clients never have to worry about paying any upfront legal fees for any of our legal services. Our firm is also based on contingency; therefore, our clients will never have to pay anything until after reaching a successful claim outcome and recovering the compensation that they deserve. If you would like to learn more about your right to take action against your employer after suffering disability discrimination, do not hesitate to contact our law firm at your earliest convenience – we are ready to provide you with the legal assistance that you need.