Orange County Disability Harassment Lawyer

California and Orange County employees who have a disability often have many obstacles to overcome to participate in the workforce.  While both federal and California laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offer important protections for disabled applicants and employees with respect to discrimination and reasonable accommodations, there is another significant issue which can make the workplace even more challenging for disabled individuals.  Disabled employees regularly find themselves on the receiving end of offensive, hostile, and harassing behavior in the workplace, oftentimes at the hands of their own co-workers and managers.  Disability harassment has been, and continues to be, a very serious and concerning issue which effects both California and Orange County employees.

Disability Harassment Lawyer

In general, disability harassment consists of a pattern of offensive or demeaning behavior that is directed at an employee as a result of their disability.  This can be done by managers, supervisors, and sometimes disabled employees can even face ridicule from their own co-workers who make derogatory and offensive remarks about their disability.  In other instances, when an employee develops a disability while employed and requires a reasonable accommodation such as a modification of their duties, schedule or work environment or who may need a leave of absence, might return to work to find their once collegial co-workers are now resentful of what they perceive as special treatment in the workforce.  In actuality, it is not special treatment, it is simply following the law to ensure all California and Orange County employees’ rights are protected and are given the proper opportunities at work.

Orange County Disability Harassment Lawyer

If this pattern of behavior is severe or pervasive—meaning the conduct occurs with such significance and frequency that it changes the conditions of employment—it can create an unlawful hostile work environment.  To rise to this level, the conduct must also be directed at the employee because of their disability.  Some examples of this may include referring to the disabled employee in derogatory terms, such as cripple or crazy (in the case of mental disabilities), comments about employees needing their “happy pills” or referring to them as lazy or not dependable because of their need for a reasonable accommodation or leave of absence.  Co-workers may also complain about having to take on extra work because of a disabled employee.  While one comment is usually not enough to trigger a situation of unlawful disability harassment, several instances can be viewed in their totality to be considered unlawful.  This is what is known as a hostile work environment.  Similar to other forms of harassment, disability harassment can also occur when an employee is perceived to be suffer from a disability even if they ultimately do not do so.

An important distinction between harassment and discrimination is that harassment, in general, does not require an adverse employment action (i.e., a suspension, demotion, or termination) to establish liability.  This means if that disability harassment occurs, that in and of itself is harmful enough for there to be a legal violation that gives rise to a lawsuit.  With disability harassment, liability will be established by the conduct, whether it is offensive, if it is sufficiently severe or pervasive and if it is based on the employee’s disability.  Then the analysis turns to who is the bad actor (the person perpetrating the disability harassment).   Where a supervisor is the bad actor, California law allows for strict liability, regardless of if the employer knew of the conduct.  This means that the employer is liable for unlawful disability harassment and there is no available defense.  Where a co-worker is the individual perpetrating the harassment, the inquiry focuses on if the employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action to stop the conduct.  California and Orange County employers can also be liable to harassment the is perpetrated by third parties such as vendors or other individuals who interact with employees when the employer knew or should have known of that conduct as well.

Disability Harassment Lawyer in Orange County

California and Orange County employees will usually want to report the disability harassment that is being perpetrated against them to their employer and human resources department.  The employer must then conduct an investigation and take prompt remedial action to address the offensive, problematic, and unlawful conduct.  Unfortunately, many employers fail to do so.

California and Orange County employees who believe they have been subjected to disability harassment or harassment because they have requested a reasonable accommodation should contact a California Employment Attorney in Orange County.  The disability harassment attorneys at Ares Law Group, P.C. have extensive experience representing disable employees to ensure their rights are protected.  Reach out to one of Ares Law Group’s Orange County employment attorneys for a free initial consultation.