Disability Discrimination

Disability Discrimination

It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on his or her mental condition, or physical or mental disability.  Employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees, and employees with mental conditions, unless doing so would result in an undue hardship.

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and California law—specifically, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”)—protect individuals with disabilities or medical conditions from discrimination in the workplace.  

The laws against discrimination based on disability also apply to perceived disabilities. It is not a defense to discrimination allegations if the employer was wrong about the individual’s actual disability.

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Disabilities under FEHA apply to mental and physical disabilities. Mental disabilities include, but are not limited to, any mental or psychological disorder or condition that limits a major life activity.  These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (“OCD”)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Dementia
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Specific learning disabilities


A “physical disability” includes disfigurements or diseases that affect the body and limit major life activities. These may include:

  • Physiological disease
  • Disorder
  • Condition
  • Cosmetic disfigurement
  • Anatomical loss 


Physical disabilities also include permanent and temporary conditions, such as:

  • Impaired eyesight
  • Impaired hearing
  • Impaired speech
  • Chronic diseases
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Diabetes
  • Loss of a limb
  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Obesity, if it is involuntary


Major life activities include the day-to-day activities that most people take for granted, as well as the operation of major body functions, such as:

  • Functions of the immune system
  • Normal cell growth
  • Digestive
  • Bowel
  • Bladder
  • Neurological
  • Brain
  • Respiratory
  • Circulatory
  • Endocrine
  • Reproductive functions


Signs of discrimination may include: 

  • Being terminated while on medical or disability leave, or shortly after returning to work
  • Comments about an individual’s disability or medical condition 
  • Sudden changes in treatment at the workplace, such as with performance reviews after notifying the employer about a medical condition or disability
  • Reduced hours or pay
  • Change in work duties or increases in workload
  • Different application of rules to workers with disabilities
  • Exclusion from meetings and events


If you have experienced any form of disability or medical condition discrimination, please contact the attorneys at MSD LLP, as soon as possible, so we can evaluate your potential case and advise you on your rights.