Invisible Disabilities and Workplace Discrimination in California

When it comes to disability discrimination in the workplace, many presume it is for the obvious or perceived disabilities – a genetic condition like Down syndrome or a traumatic injury that leaves one scarred or with lower physical capacity. Los Angeles disability discrimination lawyers, however, know that invisible disabilities can affect individuals too.disability discrimination attorney

Workplace discrimination for these conditions usually comes in the form of assumptions of one’s ability based on stigma or the failure to understand why certain conditions require the treatment they do.

Some of the workplace disability cases our employment attorneys have taken on include:

  • Mild traumatic brain injuries
  • Attention hyperactivity disorder
  • Dyslexia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • High-functioning autism
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Heart problems

Workers with disabilities are protected against workplace discrimination by two primary federal laws: The Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In order to be covered by these protections, workers are required to disclose their disabilities, which we realize can be a tough decision. The truth of the matter is, discrimination often follows disclosure.

Invisible disability can impact both a person’s employment and financial future.

Our Riverside employment discrimination attorneys know that even asking for the accommodations can be difficult. For a writer with a mild traumatic brain injury, it could be as simple as requesting a proofreader. For someone who is pregnant, it could mean asking for less hours on their feet or more bathroom breaks. But in order to be considered discrimination, one must disclose the disability or condition.

What is Disability Discrimination?

Disability discrimination is described by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as occurring when an employer treats an employee or applicant less favorably because of either a disability, history of disability or perceived disability – even if the person doesn’t have an actual impairment.

Statute requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to workers or applicants to have disabilities, unless to do so would result in substantial difficulty or expense to an employer, which is referred to as an “undue hardship.”

Statute also protects individuals from relationships with individuals with disability – even if they themselves don’t have one. For instance, employers can’t discriminate against a worker whose spouse has cancer or AIDS.

Why Invisible Disabilities Pose Such Problems in the Workplace

Generally speaking, the term “disability” is used to describe some type of ongoing physical challenge. Disabilities that are not visible can be an advantage in the sense that employers can’t make obvious judgments just on the surface. However, they may be also be less inclined to believe there is a legitimate reason when someone’s performance falls short of expectations or that there is a valid purpose in acquiescing requests for accommodations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990s presumes that an individual with a disability is one who has either a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities. As our Riverside disability discrimination lawyers know, having a history of this discrimination is often very helpful in establishing this.

This history can be established by showing a difficulty in performing certain functions like:

  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Walking
  • Talking
  • Carrying
  • Lifting
  • Climbing stairs

It can also include trouble with activities of daily living, such as performing certain social roles. Individuals with these kind of disabilities.

Just because an employee doesn’t have a wheelchair or walker doesn’t meant the disability isn’t valid or that it doesn’t impact work function. In fact, an estimated 74 percent of Americans with a disability defined as “severe” don’t use assistive devices like these.

The law forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment, which includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, layoff, training, fringe benefits and more.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.

Additional Resources:

What It’s Like to Have an Invisible Disability at Work, June 22, 2018, Marketbp

More Blog Assignments:

California Overtime Pay Lawsuit Accuses Chain of Wage Theft, May 9, 2019, Riverside Disability Discrimination Attorney Blog


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