Legal Protections for California Employees Enduring Disability Discrimination for Mental Health Conditions

Our experienced California employment law attorneys at Romero Law, APC know workplace disability discrimination is not always based on physical conditions. Disability discrimination can also be targeted toward employees with mental health conditions.

Enduring Disability Discrimination

Unfortunately, mental health conditions are often stigmatized, leading to negative stereotypes and misconceptions. People may hold prejudiced beliefs about individuals with psychiatric disabilities, viewing them as dangerous, unpredictable, or incompetent.

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), mental health conditions can be considered disabilities if they substantially limit one or more major life activities. Whether a specific mental health condition qualifies as a disability is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as its severity, duration, and impact on working, concentrating, communicating, and interacting with others.

What are Some of the Most Common Examples of Disabling Mental Health Disorders?

People with mental health conditions may experience social exclusion or isolation due to societal attitudes and stigma. Discrimination can occur in various settings, including the workplace, leading to feelings of alienation and marginalization.

Some examples of mental health conditions that may be considered disabilities under FEHA include, but are not  limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Substance use disorders.

It is important to note that not all individuals with these conditions will automatically qualify as having a disability under FEHA. The determination depends on the specific circumstances of each case, including the individual’s symptoms, limitations, and the condition’s impact on their ability to perform major life activities.

Which Disability Discrimination Laws Protect California Workers with Mental Health Conditions?

As mentioned, the FEHA prohibits employment discrimination based on mental or physical disabilities. Its provisions apply to employers with five or more employees, and include:

  • Reasonable Accommodation

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with mental health disabilities, such as modified work schedules, job restructuring, or providing a quiet workspace. The employer and the employee must initiate an interactive process to determine appropriate accommodations.

  • Harassment Protections

FEHA prohibits harassment based on mental health disabilities, including offensive remarks, jokes, or derogatory comments. Employers are responsible for preventing and addressing harassment in the workplace.

  • Retaliation Protections

FEHA prohibits retaliation against employees who assert their rights under the law, such as filing a discrimination complaint or requesting accommodations. Employees have the right to engage in protected activities without fear of adverse consequences from their employer.

  • Confidentiality of Medical Information

Employers are required to keep medical information related to an employee’s mental health condition confidential and separate from their personnel file. They can only disclose such information to individuals with a legitimate need to know, such as HR personnel or supervisors involved in accommodation discussions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also provides guidelines on disability discrimination, including mental health disabilities, which apply to California employers and help offer additional employee protections.

What Legal Remedies Are Available During California Employment Disability Discrimination Claims?

Employees who experience disability discrimination for mental health conditions in California may file a complaint against their employers/

Remedies for successful discrimination claims may include reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

Contact Our Whistleblower Retaliation Attorney Today

If you are being discriminated against in your California workplace because of a mental health condition, contact our experienced Los Angeles County disability discrimination attorneys today to discuss your unique circumstances and available legal remedies.

Our employment law firm and bilingual staff offer services in both English and Spanish and are available to discuss your case by calling (626)-396-9900 or contacting us online.

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