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Understanding disability discrimination

As someone who is disabled living in California, you probably know that when you seek employment, prospective employers cannot discriminate against you because of your disability. Nor can they discriminate against you in any way if they give you the job. Furthermore, they must reasonably accommodate your disability except under very limited circumstances. Should an employer fail to adhere to these Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, you have the right to sue that company for employment discrimination.

In order to qualify for protection under the ADA, however, your job qualifications must be sufficient to perform any job for which you apply. Additionally, you must meet at least one of the following three eligibility requirements:

  1. You must possess significantly curtailed sight, mobility, hearing, speech or learning ability caused by your physical or mental condition or disease.
  2. You must have a history of disability; for instance, you could have cancer that is currently in remission.
  3. The employer, prospective or current, believes that you suffer from a permanent, significant physical or mental disability, even if you do not really have that disability.

The hiring process

No prospective employer can ask you any medical questions when first interviewing you for a new job. (S)he likewise cannot ask you if you have a disability or to define it if you do. The only thing (s)he can ask you is if you can perform the work entailed in the job for which you are applying, whether or not the company provides any accommodation.

Once there is a job offer, however, (s)he can then ask you medical questions and make your answers a condition of the final job offer. If all applicants for this job must pass a medical exam in order to be hired, the company also can make the job offer conditional upon your passing the same exam.

Reasonable accommodation

While the ADA regulations require your employer to reasonably accommodate your disability, they also exempt some companies from this mandate. For example, if it would cost the company a considerable amount of money to accommodate your particular disability, the ADA likely will give it a hardship exemption. Be aware, however, that such exemptions generally apply only to smaller companies that have limited resources and/or otherwise fall under one of the exemption criteria.

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