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Can an employer in California refuse to hire someone with a disability?

by | Jul 15, 2021 | Disability Discrimination |

In most cases, it is unlawful in California for an employer to discriminate against an applicant because of his or her physical or mental disability. Employment discrimination based on a real or perceived disability is a violation of California state and federal law.

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an individual based on mental disability or physical disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects applicants and employees from employment discrimination based on disability.

The ADA and other employment anti-discrimination laws protect qualified individuals from discrimination based on disability. A “qualified individual” means someone who can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

The ADA and California law also protect individuals with a disability from discrimination in the workplace. It is a violation for an employer to treat an employee less favorably because he or she has a history of disability or is believed to have a physical or mental disability.

Under the FEHA, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against a person because of his or her disability, in any aspect of employment. This includes:

  1. Refusing to hire or employ
    2. Refusing to select a person for a training program
    3. Firing, bearing, or discharging an employee
    4. Discriminating against a person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment

Disability discrimination is prohibited in any aspect of employment or hiring, including:

  • Refusing to hire
  • Refusing to select for a training program
  • Demotion
  • Reduced pay
  • Deny a promotion
  • Deny reinstatement
  • Deny benefits
  • Forcing an employee to quit
  • Harassment
  • Assign different duties
  • Discrimination in any way

Employers are required by law to evaluate job applicants without regard to their actual or perceived disabilities. Employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee or applicant unless it would cause undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardship is considered significant difficulty or expense.

An employer cannot ask about the nature of an applicant’s disability. However, employers can ask an applicant about whether they are able to perform job-related functions.

Employers cannot ask the applicant to take a medical or psychological exam if other prospective employees are not also required to take such exams, or if the examination is not job-related and consistent with business necessity.