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Ochoa & Calderon

Discrimination and Hidden Disabilities

Loss of vision from the screen.

California state and federal laws prohibit discrimination against employees or job applicants with disabilities. Often, an employee’s disability is apparent: they’re blind, they’re in a wheelchair, they use a hearing aid, etc. Many disabilities are not so readily apparent, however, but they are no less real. Employees cannot make discriminatory decisions in hiring, firing, promoting, or otherwise considering employees based on a disability, whether that disability is visible or hidden. Read on for a discussion of hidden disability and workplace discrimination in California. If you believe you have been the target of disability discrimination, call an experienced Riverside workplace discrimination lawyer for advice on how to protect your rights.

What Is a “Hidden” Disability?

A “hidden” or “invisible” disability is a condition that affects an employee’s ability to work under normal conditions but which is not readily apparent to outside observers. Employers may discriminate against workers who suffer from these conditions either because they have a stigma against the condition, they have unfounded assumptions about the condition, or because they misunderstand the nature and effect of the condition.

Hidden disabilities may be diagnosed mental health issues that are not readily apparent to other people. Learning difficulties may also qualify as disabilities. Mental health and learning disabilities may include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • Dyslexia
  • High-functioning autism
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Speech impairments
  • Chronic depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

There are also physical disabilities that may be hidden from normal view. These include ailments that are primarily internal and may not manifest with external symptoms, or whose external symptoms may appear only rarely. Neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, organ failure, diseases, cancers, and any number of other conditions can be extremely debilitating even though an outside observer may not be able to identify the ailment at first glance. Hidden disabilities include:

  • Vision impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Diabetes
  • Renal failure
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Asthma
  • Sleep disorders
  • Lupus
  • Cancer
  • Lyme disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Hidden disabilities are just as valid as physical, visible disabilities. In fact, the largest percentage of people with qualifying disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) have invisible or hidden disabilities.

Protection Against Discrimination for Hidden Disabilities

If you are employed in California, you have the right to be free from workplace discrimination based on your disability. So long as you are able to perform your job with reasonable accommodation, you cannot be demoted, terminated, passed over for a promotion, or otherwise denied employment benefits. Employers cannot make adverse employment decisions based on your disability, and they must provide reasonable accommodation to allow you to do your job.

Reasonable accommodations for invisible disabilities might include:

  • Additional rest breaks
  • Time off for medical visits
  • Flexible work hours
  • Modified job responsibilities
  • Adaptive equipment such as special chairs, a modified telephone, or handrails

So long as making such an accommodation would not pose an undue hardship, and the worker can continue to do their job otherwise, employers must make appropriate, reasonable accommodations. If the employer has concerns about the worker’s performance, they must maintain an open dialogue with the employee about how to accommodate rather than dismiss an employee and their needs despite their disability.

Call a Skilled Labor Law Attorney for Help With an Age Discrimination or Harassment Claim

For help protecting yourself and recovering compensation after experiencing disability discrimination in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a dedicated and effective California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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