It’s hard enough for disabled individuals to find a job, let alone keep it, especially during these trying times. If you feel that you have been targeted unfairly by your employer because of your disability, you may have a legal claim against them.
Disability discrimination in the time of COVID-19
Many companies have had to let go of some if not most of their workforce because of the financial hardships caused by the pandemic. Although mass layoffs are perfectly legal in California since the state upholds “at-will” employment, they can be used by unscrupulous businesses to discriminate against those with disabilities.
Fortunately, there are many laws that protect disabled employees against unlawful termination and other forms of discrimination, the most prominent of which is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, you can sue your employers for discrimination and receive compensation if they have been found in breach of the Act’s guidelines. To start the legal process of filing a disability discrimination claim, here’s what you need to do:
- Make sure you meet the ADA’s definition of disability
The ADA has its own definition of what constitutes a disability, and not all injuries and illnesses are considered. As stated by the Act, you are covered if you have a physical or mental condition that severely hampers your daily activities. This means that you must have an impairment that affects your vision, hearing, walking, and ability to perform everyday tasks. At this point, it will be wise to seek the help of an employment attorney in San Diego to confirm whether your disability falls under the ADA or not.
- Gather evidence
Disability discrimination can take many forms:
- Failure to provide reasonable accommodation
- Wrongful dismissal, and others
If you were fired during a mass layoff, your employer will likely have a reason for doing so. However, this reason must be scrutinized to ensure you were not discriminated against. Your employment attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claim.
- File your complaint
To file a complaint against your employer, you need to schedule an interview with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) field office and complete a form. The EEOC.gov website allows you to do this.
In-person interviews are currently suspended due to COVID-19, and walk-ins are not accepted, so make sure to set your schedule with the agency before heading there. You will need to furnish the EEOC with your and your employer’s contact information, along with a detailed account of how you feel you were discriminated against. After your interview and form fill-up, you will have to wait for the agency to contact you again.
In general, the EEOC requires disabled individuals to file a disability charge within 180 days of the last date of discrimination. However, its state counterpart, the Department Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) prolongs this deadline and gives Californians one year to file from the last date of discrimination. It is imperative that you meet this deadline, because if you fail to submit your claim before they expire, you can no longer pursue legal action or damages from your employer.
- Wait for the completion of the EEOC investigation
According to the EEOC website, it imposes the same timeframe of 180 days on itself to complete its investigation on a single claim. However, in reality, investigations take longer than that, with some saying that the process takes about 10 months. Once the EEOC has reviewed your claim and found it with merit, it will notify your employer and ask for a response. Faced with a lawsuit, your employer may seek to settle your claims or negotiate a resolution.
- File your lawsuit
If your employer refuses to settle, the EEOC will proceed to process your charge and give you a “right to sue,” that will be explicitly stated in a letter they will send you. This “right to sue letter gives you the authority to proceed in court with your claim.” After receiving this letter, you will have 90 days to file your lawsuit.
Consult a discrimination attorney today
It’s important to address disability discrimination in the workplace whenever it happens. All employers should be familiar with the ADA, and should do their best to uphold its principles. If you have decided to take action, work with a lawyer like those from like Hogue & Belong, Attorneys at Law, who specializes in cases like yours.
With the help of a discrimination or employee misclassification attorney, you will not only have proper representation for your lawsuit, you also have someone handling the paperwork, gathering the evidence, interviewing witnesses, and fighting your employer for you every step of the way.