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Like many Californians, you may be wondering: can my job fire me because of my disability? There are state laws to protect the over 700,000 people living with disabilities in California, so it’s an important question to answer. Although most employers in the United States do so under an “at-will” basis, laws protect against discrimination against those living with disabilities. As an employee in California, there are federal and state laws to protect your rights and make sure employers do not discriminate against people living with disabilities. 

Federal and State Laws That Protect Those Living With A Disability 

Family and Medical Leave Act 

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law, meaning it applies to the entire country, including California. This law entitles eligible employees up to 12 workweeks per year of unpaid, job-protected leave. Meaning, your employer cannot terminate you for taking this kind of leave. Reasons for this kind of leave include: 

  • Caring for a newborn, foster, or adopted child 
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a health condition 
  • A serious health condition affecting the employee 
  • And more, for the full list, look here 

Essentially, all qualifying workers in the United States are entitled to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid time off to care for their medical issues or those of an immediate family member.  It’s important to remember that there are qualifications for a workplace to comply with this law. Not all workplaces are subject to it. The workplace has to have more than 50 employees, and the employee has to have worked there for a full year before this benefit applies. 

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act State Laws

California goes further than the Family and Medical Leave Act to protect employees living with disabilities. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act is a state law that includes protections for Californians living with disabilities in the workplace. This law states that anyone with five or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities. The employer should do anything in their power to make a suitable working situation for the employee, as long as it does not cause undue hardship to the employer. In simple terms, if you ask your employer to make a reasonable change to your schedule or working area to accommodate a disability, they are required by law to do so.

This also protects you from being terminated for those reasons. They also need to provide leave for medical appointments are care. Suppose you have asked for any of these accommodations and been denied or even terminated from your position. In that case, that could be grounds for legal action. This state law makes it unlawful for an employer to fail to provide the accommodations. This state law aims to remove barriers that would prevent someone from otherwise doing their job. 

Americans With Disabilities Act 

This incredibly important law makes it unlawful to fire an employee due to a disability. Some of the fundamental facts to know about this federal law are: 

  • It only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees 
  • It is the responsibility of the employee to notify the employer of their disability 
  • Protects those who meet the ADA’s definition of disability 
  • Covers both mental and physical disabilities 

Once the employee notifies the employer of their disability and asks for accommodations the employer must try several accommodations before deciding that they cannot perform their job. Here is where the term “unreasonable hardship” comes into play. Whether or not the accommodations will constitute unreasonable hardship will depend on the company’s budget and size. So, in short, your job cannot fire you for asking for accommodations. Although, if the employer cannot meet the accommodations needed without undue hardship, they will have no other choice. Therefore, the employer may be lawfully terminate the employee. Remember, you may want to negotiate your accommodations with your employer to find something that works for both parties, which is entirely within your rights under the ADA. 

If you believe your employer broke employment laws, California Employee Advocates can help. Schedule a call with us for a free consultation and strategy session to see if you have a case. If your employer broke the law, you might be entitled to significant compensation. 

*Disclaimer: This article post is not meant to substitute for legal aid or give legal advice. If you or someone you know requires legal aid, please reach out to a qualified attorney. California Employee Advocates is not a law firm.