Both federal and state law prohibits discrimination against an employee based on his or her medical condition in relation to employment decisions. Employment decisions can include a variety of employment aspects, such as hiring, firing, training, job assignments, promoting, and demoting an employee.
The federal laws that provide workers these rights against discrimination include the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (CFEHA) is the state law that provides employees protection from employment discrimination.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
The FMLA requires an employer to grant an employee medical leave under particular circumstances and applies to all employees’ medical conditions covered under the law. The ADA, on the other hand, makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of a disability.
A disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that significantly limits one or more life functions of an individual. Although some medical conditions are not disabilities and medical intervention can sometimes remove an employee’s impairment, there are still many situations where the ADA comes into play due to an employee’s medical diagnosis.
Sometimes, the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits discrimination against an individual based on his or her genes, can also apply to medical discrimination cases.
Anti-Discrimination Laws in California
Some states across the country have enacted even stronger protections than the federal laws that are in place regarding medical discrimination. California is one of these states.
Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (CFEHA), an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an individual based on his or her medical condition. Accordingly, under most circumstances, it is illegal, in California, for an employer to refuse to hire an applicant solely based on his or her medical condition or perceived medical condition. Discriminating against someone on this basis, in California, violates both state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
Both the ADA and the CFEHA also protect employees who have been diagnosed with a medical condition from workplace discrimination. An employer may not treat an employee less favorably due to their medical condition history or the perception thereof.
The CFEHA prohibits discrimination, in any aspect of employment, based on a medical condition, including refusal to hire or employ; refusal to select for training; firing, bearing, or discharging; and discrimination in compensation, terms, privileges, or conditions of employment.
Simply put, in California, employers must evaluate a job applicant without regard to his or her actual or perceived medical conditions.
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