• Sasha Struthers

What is disability discrimination in California?



Disability discrimination occurs when an employee either treats an employee differently or adversely based on the employee's disability status (known or perceived), mental or physical, or when an employee fails to sufficiently partake in the good faith interactive process in an effort to accommodate the employee's disability. You can read my post here on what the good faith interactive process should look like.


California's definition of disability is very broad- It includes physical and mental disability


Mental Disability includes, but is not limited to:

  • Emotional or mental illness

  • Intellectual or cognitive disability

  • Organic brain syndrome

  • Specific learning disabilities

  • Autism spectrum disorders

  • Schizophrenia

  • Chronic or episodic conditions such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

This mental disability must limit a major life activity.


Physical Disability includes, but is not limited to:

  • Deafness

  • Blindness

  • Partially or completely missing limbs

  • Mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair

  • Cerebral palsy, and chronic

  • Episodic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, epilepsy, seizure disorder, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart and circulatory disease.

Physical disabilities are having any anatomical loss, cosmetic disfigurement, physiological disease, disorder or condition that does both of the following:

(A) affects one or more of the following body systems: neurological; immunological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; circulatory; skin; and endocrine; and


(B) limits a major life activity.


Major Life Activity includes, but is not limited to:

  • Caring for oneself

  • Performing manual tasks

  • Seeing

  • Hearing

  • Eating

  • Sleeping

  • Walking

  • Standing

  • Sitting

  • Reaching

  • Lifting

  • Bending

  • Speaking

  • Breathing

  • Learning

  • Reading

  • Concentrating

  • Thinking

  • Communicating

  • Interacting with others

  • Working

Perceived Disability is one in which the employee is regarded, perceived or treated as being disabled. This usually comes down to an employer should have reasonably believed or known the employee to be disabled.


The most common cases of disability discrimination arise out of an employee's request to be accommodated by the employer based on the employee telling the employer they have a disability and the employer failing to take adequate steps to try to reasonably accommodate the employee so that the employee could maintain their job.


If you have any employment law questions or curiosities piqued by this post feel free to reach out to me. You may contact me by phone at (818) 306-0686 or by email at sasha@struthers.legal


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The information in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this post should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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