The California Fair Employment Housing Act, the state’s chief anti-discrimination law, has adopted new disability discrimination regulations after public comment was finalized earlier this year. Here, the definition of disability is now broadly interpreted freely under the FEHA.
Moreover, the FEHA Commission has also urged that any disability discrimination cases filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) should focus on whether employers have provided reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, as well as whether both parties have met their obligations via an “interactive process,” and whether there is an event or episode of discrimination.
Also, the Commission also argued that when an employee meets the definition of disability under the FEHA, he or she must not undergo “extensive analysis” in order to prove the existence of a physical or mental condition. In many cases, the status of the employee as a person with disability is obvious right at the onset.
One of the highlights of the FEHA amendments regarding disability discrimination cases is on the “interactive process.” Here, it is the California employer’s obligation to engage in the interactive process with the disabled applicant or employee, especially when a request for accommodation is made, or when a disabled employee uses a leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Such amendments in the definition of disability were included in the FEHA, with language and concepts adopted from the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making sure that the principles stated in the latter are not conflicting with that of the FEHA. But then, despite the broader definition of disability, additions to the FEHA provisions would cause confusion, and, more importantly, subsequent employment cases.
In any case, it is important for the disabled employee to consult or seek legal advice from a top employment and labor lawyer, especially when there is an issue of disability discrimination or any Los Angeles workplace discrimination.