What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer wrongfully discriminated against an employee based on his/her disability. For all cases of disability discrimination, the employee’s disability must limit a major life activity. Disabilities could include physical, mental, medical disability, and special education disabilities. Physical disabilities include physiological disease, having anatomical loss, and cosmetic disfigurement. A physical disability can also include a disorder or condition that affects at least one of the following body systems: neurological, immunological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic, and lymphatic, circulatory, skin, and endocrine. Other examples of physical disabilities include diabetes, blindness, deafness, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. Examples of mental disabilities include emotional or mental illnesses, cognitive disabilities, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Examples of medical disabilities include cancer-related impairments or genetic components that put an individual at higher risk for disease or disorder. Special education disabilities include brain injuries, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia  (Los Angeles Disability Discrimination Lawyer – Miracle Mile Law Group).

In order for an employee to make a disability discrimination claim, the employee must satisfy specific factual components. One noteworthy component is that the employer had to be aware of his or her employee’s disability. Another important element is that the employee with the disability was still able to perform his or her essential job functions, either with or without reasonable accommodations. If the employee needs accommodation and the employer fails to accommodate these accommodations, then the employee can claim disability discrimination in this case as well as long as the employee can still perform his or her essential job duties with the reasonable accommodations in place. Reasonable accommodations may include changing the employee’s job responsibilities, reassignment of employee’s position, modifying or providing equipment or devices, and making the workplace reasonably accessible. The purpose of reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities is to ensure equality in the job application process and thus, the employee could receive the same benefits as an employee who does not have a disability.

Furthermore, an employee, himself or herself, does not necessarily need to be disabled in order to claim disability discrimination in his or her workplace. Rather, the employee could claim that their employer wrongfully discriminated against him/her due to his/her association with a disabled person. For example, the employee could have a sister who has cancer and needs to constantly take her to doctor’s appointments. The employer could discriminate against this employee by wanting to fire him/her because his or her sister was under the employee’s employer-provided health care plan and thus was costly to the employer. Another form of discrimination against this employee is if the employer was afraid that the employee might also get sick because the disease or illness was genetic. The employer could also discriminate against this employee by firing the employee for being somewhat inattentive due to his/her responsibilities for the associated disabled person, even though the employee was still able to perform his or her job duties.