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Can an Employer Ask for Proof of a Disability?


Disability issues in the workplace are often very sensitive in nature. While employers want to ensure their employees can perform the tasks required of them—or ensure they are comfortable doing so—employees are generally entitled to privacy and not required to prove their disabilities unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

Below, we discuss this topic in greater detail and offer insights that you may find useful if you are navigating a related issue with your employer.

Disability Disclosure in California

Aside from the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is California's primary anti-discrimination law. This statute prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.

Permissible Inquiries Under the FEHA

While the FEHA prohibits disability discrimination, it does allow employers to make certain inquiries related to an employee's disability status under specific circumstances.

Here’s a look at some of these circumstances:

  • Requesting Reasonable Accommodation: Employers can ask for proof of a disability when an employee requests reasonable accommodation to perform essential job functions. This request often involves documentation from a qualified medical professional outlining the nature of the disability and the need for accommodation.
  • Job-Related Inquiries: Employers can inquire about an applicant's ability to perform essential job functions if the questions are job-related and consistent with business necessity. For example, if a job requires lifting heavy objects, the employer can ask if the applicant can meet this requirement or would require accommodation to do so.

Prohibited Inquiries & Practices

While certain inquiries related to disability are permissible, there are also prohibited practices under the FEHA.

For example, employers may not request an employee’s medical records to discover an undisclosed disability. Employers are also prohibited from compelling employees to undergo medical examinations unless the employee’s job reasonably requires this of all persons in the same role.

When an employer violates an employee’s privacy as it pertains to their disability, they can incur liability for workplace disability discrimination. Employees who suffer from this treatment at work should consult with an employment lawyer to learn more about legal options to seek damages that may be available to them.

Contact K2 Employment Law for Help

For many years, K2 Employment Law has advocated on behalf of people who faced illegal and unfair treatment from their employers. Enduring such experiences is challenging enough, which is why we strive to make the process of asserting one’s rights and seeking damages as smooth as possible.

If you believe your employer subjected you to unlawful treatment or otherwise violated your rights as an employee in California, you may have a legal claim you can pursue. Our team at K2 Employment Law has the experience and skill necessary to build a strategy that can help you hold your employer accountable for its unfair actions and/or policies.

Contact us today to request a free consultation and learn more about us.

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