People with disabilities in California and across the United States often face discrimination in the workplace. However, there are laws that protect the rights of disabled workers, including the right to take medical leave. Several major corporations have recently settled large lawsuits after they strictly limited the amount of time off disabled workers could take or required them to be cured of their disabilities before returning to the job. The latest settlement with the federal government was concluded by Mueller Industries.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a lawsuit against Mueller Industries because it failed to provide proper leave as a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. In addition, the EEOC said that the company had fired workers for using disability leave or exceeding limits imposed by the company on how much leave could be taken. The EEOC has identified these blanket maximums on leave taken as one of its major national enforcement priorities to combat disability discrimination in the workplace. It has taken up this enforcement priority after years of warnings to corporations that these policies risk discriminating against workers with disabilities.
In May 2016, the agency issued a guidance on how employer-provided leave interacts with the protections mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The guidance makes it clear that workers with disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations, not to be forced out of their jobs. The numerous enforcement actions taken up by the federal agency underline some of the difficulties that workers continue to face on the job.
Despite laws like the ADA that explicitly protect disabled workers, disability discrimination continues to be a major problem in a wide range of industries. People with disabilities who have faced retaliation or unfair treatment on the job can consult with an employment lawyer about the potential to take legal action to seek justice.