Can an Individual Be Denied a Job Because of a Medical Condition?

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from discriminating against current or potential employees based on medical condition, mental disabilities, or physical disabilities. 

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Can an Individual Be Denied a Job Because of a Medical Condition?

Under California law, an employer is not allowed to refuse to accept a job candidate based on any medical conditions. This would qualify as employment discrimination on the grounds of a medical condition, which is unlawful according to federal law and California state law.

Related to this, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant on the grounds of a medical condition.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects job candidates and employees from discrimination based on medical needs, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities. The ADA and other anti-discrimination laws offer protection to qualifying individuals. Such an individual may do the necessary parts of their job with or without accommodations for their condition.

The ADA, as well as California laws, offer protection to employees who have medical conditions so that they do not face discrimination at their place of work. For instance, it is unlawful for a company to mistreat an employee due to their record of medical issues.

According to the FEHA, it is unlawful for a company to discriminate against an employee or job applicant over a medical issue. The unlawful conduct includes the following:

  • Refusing to employ or hire an individual based on a medical condition
  • Firing an individual based on a medical condition
  • Selecting a person for a training program based on a medical condition
  • Offering different pay or terms based on a medical condition
  • Providing different privileges of employment based on a medical condition

The law requires that employers judge applicants for a job without considering their real or perceived medical problems. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees who request them. If the accommodation request causes unnecessary difficulties for the employer, then an exception may be made. Undue hardships may be described as anything ranging from significant expense or difficulty. You should contact a San Diego employment attorney if you experienced discrimination based on your medical condition.

Discrimination based on a medical condition is unacceptable in every part of employment. Discriminatory behavior includes any of the following:

  • Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations
  • Refusing to participate in an efficient, positive interactive process with employees who request accommodation
  • Refusing to select for a training program
  • Refusing to hire
  • Demotion
  • Deduction from pay
  • Denial of benefits
  • Harassment
  • Denial of a promotion
  • Denial of a reinstatement
  • Assigning different duties
  • Forcing an employee to quit

Employers that are sued by their employees should contact a employment attorney representing employers accused of discrimination.

What Does Perceived Medical Condition Mean?

The laws that protect against medical condition discrimination are also relevant for perceived medical conditions and disabilities. This is when a person with a certain medical condition may not exhibit any impairment, limiting or otherwise. If an employer is incorrect about the employee’s actual situation, they still do not have a defense against discrimination.

For example, let’s say an employer does not give a job to an applicant because they perceive the candidate to have AIDS or HIV. The employer later discovers that the information is inaccurate and the employee did not, in fact, have any medical conditions. This could result in a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination.

What Medical Conditions are Legally Protected from Discrimination?

According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, a medical condition is defined as:

  1. A health impairment related to a cancer diagnosis or a history of cancer
  2. Genetic characteristics
    • A scientific or medically known chromosome or gene combination that causes a disorder or disease in an individual
    • Inherited characteristics may come from a family member who had a history of a disorder or disease

Genetic conditions can predict the likelihood of cancer, heart disease, or another severe diagnosis. An employer might discriminate against an employee because they worry the individual will ask for more time off or will leave the job in the future.

What Are Example of Cognitive Disabilities?

Cognitive disabilities include chronic illnesses or medical conditions such as the following:

  • Clinical depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Dementia
  • Learning disabilities

What Are Examples of Physical Disabilities?

Physical disabilities protected by anti-discrimination laws include the following:

  • Cosmetic disfigurement
  • Physiological diseases, conditions, and disorders
  • Anatomical loss

What Are Examples of Permanent and Temporary Medical Conditions?

Permanent and temporary disabilities protected by anti-discrimination laws include the following:

  • Impaired hearing
  • Impaired eyesight
  • Chronic diseases
  • Hepatitis
  • Impaired speech
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Limb loss

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