All employers need to be aware of situations where an employee has a medical condition that may require some type of workplace accommodation. While it may be inconvenient, both the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (CFEH) protect workers against certain acts of medical condition discrimination. This includes not only refusing to make reasonable accommodation, but also taking any adverse employment action based on an employee’s medical condition.
At Valiant Law, we help businesses like yours comply with applicable federal and state laws regarding medical condition discrimination. While the law may seem confusing in this area, with well-drafted policies and proper managerial training, your business can hopefully avoid any serious problems. And even if a dispute does arise, we can assist you in litigating a medical discrimination complaint in court.
Employees get sick. That is simply a fact of life. But when a medical condition is more than a minor inconvenience, it may trigger an employer’s legal obligations under the ADA and CFEH Act. For example, if an employee has cancer, the employer may need to accommodate her chemotherapy schedule. Or an employee with a broken leg may need temporary alteration to his work space so he can continue doing his job.
So long as an employee remains capable of performing the “essential functions” of his or her position, the employer is obligated to try and meet any request for reasonable accommodation for a medical condition. This often requires an “interactive process” where the employer and employee sit down and discuss the situation. The employer is not necessarily obligated to grant the exact accommodation requested. In fact, the employer does not have to accept any alteration of working conditions that would create an “undue hardship” for the business.
But remember, as an employer subject to the ADA and the CFEH Act, you cannot simply fire, demote, or reassign an employee because they get sick or have a medical condition. Such adverse actions inevitably lead to lawsuits. Even if you think an employee is making unreasonable requests related to their medical condition, it is always in your interest to engage in the interactive process. This way, even if you do not reach an agreement as to a reasonable accommodation, you are in a much stronger legal position should the employee sue.
Employers also need to be aware of other forms of medical condition discrimination that may affect their businesses. The California Family Rights Act, for instance, permits certain employees to take unpaid leave to care for a serious medical condition. The CEFH also provides for pregnancy disability leave. And California law further prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their genetic information, i.e. their family history related to certain medical conditions.
The most important thing is to get qualified legal advice from attorneys who understand this complex web of employment and anti-discrimination laws. Valiant Law can help your business avoid some of the common pitfalls employers fall into when dealing with employee medical conditions. Call us today at (909) 677-2270 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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