Disability Discrimination in the Workplace



The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a powerful federal law that protects the rights of persons with disabilities. When it comes to your employment, California offers even more protections under the Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA). California is a leader in enacting legislation that protects persons with disabilities in the workplace. If you have a known disability, your employer is required to engage in what the law calls a good faith, interactive process to determine what accommodations would help you perform the essential functions of your job without causing them undue hardship. Undue hardship is a very high standard and difficult for employers to prove. In other words, employers can almost always provide you with accommodation under the law. But this doesn’t mean that they always do.


If you have a disability – physical or mental – that affects your ability to perform your job, you have rights. Examples of reasonable accommodations include more frequent breaks, finite leaves of absence, working from home, lifting restrictions, altered workstations, etc. A disability is defined broadly by the ADA, requiring that your condition substantially affect a major life activity. The FEHA removes the “substantial” requirement, thus covering even more disabilities in the workplace.


Persons who need accommodations due to their disability often face retaliation and harassment at the hands of co-workers or supervisors. Your hours may be cut, you come back from a finite leave only to be terminated, or you suddenly start getting written up more. In addition, we often see rights violated when new supervisors are hired and start interacting with the employee with a disability.


Here are a few things you can do if you believe you are experiencing discrimination due to your disability/need for an accommodation at work:

  • Report your concerns to your direct supervisor in writing to given them a chance to remedy the situation;
  • Contact your HR Representative/Hotline and make a written, formal complaint;
  • A case is only as good as its evidence. Oral evidence is not very strong. Write down everything occurring, and make written complaints so there is a record;
  • Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Potter Handy to discuss your particular situation and rights.


You should never be treated differently or afforded fewer opportunities because you have a disability. If you are being subjected to disability discrimination in the workplace, as an employee, you have options. You have rights. The Potter Handy Law Firm is here for you.


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