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Employment Protections for Workers with Mental Disabilities

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2020 | Firm News |

Employment discrimination is a devastating problem in California workplaces and throughout the nation. Both state and federal laws identify and protect workers based on certain classifications, such as race, religion, and gender. Depending upon the type of discrimination a worker experiences and where that mistreatment occurs, the victim may be able to avail themselves to protections under different laws.

One protected classification that workers may fall into is disability. While many readers may identify disabilities with physical impairments, disabilities can also be the invisible mental conditions that victims live with each day of their lives. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who have mental disabilities and mental conditions.

Mental disability discrimination can cause a worker to unlawfully lose their job, but this form of discrimination can manifest in different ways under FEHA. For example, mental disability discrimination could result in the following adverse employment actions being taken against a worker:

  • Failure of an employer to include an individual in a job training program;
  • Failure of an employer to hire an individual into an employment position;
  • Failure of an employer to compensate an individual for the work they perform; and
  • Failure of an employer to provide a worker with other privileges of employment.

This list is not comprehensive and when workers suspect that they may have suffered adverse employment action because of their actual or perceived mental disabilities or conditions they should consult with trusted employment law attorneys.

Mental disabilities and conditions are defined broadly under FEHA, but as this post does not offer medical or legal advice, readers are encouraged to discuss their qualifications in this classification with their medical and legal advisors. Some of the mental disabilities and conditions that are recognized under FEHA include:

  • Learning disabilities;
  • Autism spectrum disorders;
  • Depression; and
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.

An individual who suffers from a mental disability or condition has rights to seek reasonable accommodations from their employers to perform their job duties. When possible, reasonable accommodations should be extended to workers to ensure that they are able to meet the demands of their employers. Depending upon a worker’s industry and the resources of their employer, reasonable accommodations may fall into these and other categories:

  • Extra job training;
  • Modified work schedules;
  • Permission to bring assistive animals to work;
  • Job restructuring; and
  • Physical modifications to workplace.

Workplace discrimination based on disabilities can be difficult to identify and sometimes challenging to prove. Whether a disability is physical or mental, an individual may have to offer evidence of their condition and the failures of their employer to lawfully handle aspects of their employment. Assistance from a knowledgeable employment law advocate can help a California worker protect their employment rights from discriminatory acts.