How to Identify Disability Discrimination in the Workplace in Southern California

Identifying disability discrimination in the workplace is crucial for ensuring a fair and inclusive work environment for all employees. In Southern California, where diversity and inclusion are valued, it’s important to understand the signs of discrimination and know your rights under the law. Whether you’re an employee who believes you’ve experienced discrimination or an employer looking to create a more equitable workplace, recognizing the indicators of disability discrimination is the first step towards addressing and preventing it.How to Identify Disability Discrimination in the Workplace in Southern California

Understanding Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or job applicant unfavorably because of their disability. This discrimination can take many forms, including:

Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. These accommodations could include modified work schedules, assistive technology, or adjustments to job duties. If an employer fails to provide these accommodations without a valid reason, it may be considered disability discrimination.


Harassment based on disability is also prohibited by law. This could include offensive remarks, jokes, or derogatory comments about a person’s disability. Additionally, repeatedly denying a disabled employee’s requests for accommodations or subjecting them to unfair treatment because of their disability can constitute harassment.


Employees who assert their rights under the ADA or FEHA are protected from retaliation by their employers. Retaliation could include actions such as termination, demotion, or harassment in response to an employee’s complaints about disability discrimination or requests for accommodations.

Failure to Hire or Promote

Employers cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities in hiring, promotion, or other employment decisions. If a qualified candidate is passed over for a job or promotion because of their disability, it may be considered discrimination.

Identifying Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Recognizing disability discrimination can be challenging, as it may not always be overt. However, there are several signs that may indicate discriminatory behavior in the workplace:

Differential Treatment

Pay attention to how employees with disabilities are treated compared to their non-disabled colleagues. Are they consistently overlooked for opportunities or assignments? Do they receive harsher discipline or fewer accommodations than others?

Lack of Accommodations

If employees with disabilities are consistently denied accommodations or are forced to navigate significant barriers to perform their job duties, it could be a sign of discrimination. Employers have a legal obligation to engage in an interactive process with employees to determine reasonable accommodations.

Hostile Work Environment

A work environment that is hostile or unwelcoming to employees with disabilities may indicate discrimination. This could include offensive language or behavior, as well as a general lack of respect for the needs and abilities of individuals with disabilities.


Keep an eye out for instances where employees are punished or mistreated after asserting their rights under disability discrimination laws. Retaliation is illegal and should be addressed promptly.

Patterns of Exclusion

If employees with disabilities are consistently excluded from meetings, social events, or other opportunities for professional development, it may be a sign of discrimination. All employees should have equal access to these opportunities, regardless of their disability status.

What to Do If You Suspect Disability Discrimination

If you believe you’ve experienced disability discrimination in the workplace, it’s important to take action. Here are some steps you can take:

Document Everything

Keep detailed records of any instances of discrimination or harassment, including dates, times, and descriptions of what occurred. This documentation can be valuable if you decide to file a complaint or take legal action.

Follow Your Company’s Complaint Procedure

Many companies have procedures in place for addressing discrimination and harassment. Follow these procedures as outlined in your employee handbook or company policies.

Consult with an Employment Law Attorney

If you’re unsure about your rights or the best course of action to take, consider consulting with an employment law attorney who specializes in disability discrimination cases. They can provide guidance and advocate on your behalf.

File a Charge with the EEOC or DFEH

If informal attempts to resolve the issue are unsuccessful, you may choose to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). These agencies can investigate your claim and may take legal action on your behalf if they find evidence of discrimination.

Disability discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that can have far-reaching consequences for employees and employers alike. By understanding the signs of discrimination and knowing your rights under the law, you can help create a more inclusive and equitable work environment. If you believe you’ve experienced disability discrimination, don’t hesitate to take action. Remember, you have the right to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.

If you believe you have experienced disability discrimination in the workplace, contact Smith Riddles LLP today for a free case review. Our experienced employment law attorneys are here to advocate for your rights and help you seek justice. Don’t wait—take action against discrimination today.