What Rights Do People with Disabilities Have in the Workplace?

31 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. This landmark piece of legislation made discrimination against people with disabilities unlawful in the workplace, schools, transportation, and other parts of the public sphere.

As a result of this law and many others, the 61 million American adults with disabilities have far more opportunities to access high quality education, have careers, and access public spaces than they’ve had for much of our history.

Though the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws protect the rights of people with disabilities, many people with disabilities may not be aware of their rights, especially in the workplace. Here are some of the rights that people with disabilities have in the workplace.

  1. Every employee has the right to be free from discrimination due to their disability.  Some types of disability discrimination may include lower wages, demotions, refusals to accommodate their disability, unapproved leaves of absence, or even termination.
  2. People with disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodation at their place of employment. If someone requires modifications or equipment to help them perform their work, the employer is legally obligated to provide them with accommodations as long as they are reasonable and the individual is still able to do their job. Examples of reasonable accommodations include a flexible work schedule or modifications to the workspace, such as an ergonomic chair, keyboard, etc.  
  3. An employer cannot fire an employee due to their disability unless they cannot do the job with reasonable accommodations. California is an at-will employment state that permits an employer to terminate its employees for almost any non-discriminatory activity. However, it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee due to their disability, gender, race, or other protected class. If an employer terminates an employee because of their disability or refuse to provide reasonable accommodations, this is unlawful. In such situations, consulting with a lawyer can help the employee determine if they have a wrongful termination case.
  4. A prospective employer cannot refuse to hire someone due to their disability if they are able to do the job with reasonable accommodations. If someone with disabilities is qualified for a job, even if they need reasonable accommodations to perform it, it is illegal for a prospective employer to deny them a position due to their disability.
  5. Employees are not required to disclose their disability to their employer or prospective employer. While an employer may not ask an employee or prospective employee if they have a disability, the employer may ask them if they need a reasonable accommodation to perform the work. It is illegal to refuse to employ an individual who has requested reasonable accommodations if that is the reason for not employing them. Even so, it is always the individual’s decision to choose whether or not they disclose their medical condition(s).

If you have any questions about your rights as an employee, you can reach us at 805-965-4540 or by filling out our Contact Us form.

The law firm of Ghitterman, Ghitterman and Feld helps employees in the areas of workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability, disability retirement, personal injury, labor and employment issues. Founded in 1956, the firm now has offices in Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Kern County, Tulare County, and Fresno County. The firm is proud to continue this tradition of securing all available rights for the injured and disabled in our community. For more information about what we do, how we might be about to help, or resources, see our website at www.ghitterman.com.