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Disability and Leaves of Absence

California law protects employees with disabilities and medical conditions from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The terms “disability” and “medical condition” cover a broad array of conditions, including physical impairments to mental conditions. Importantly, employees may be protected even if they do not suffer from a legally recognized disability or medical condition if they are discriminated against based on a perceived disability or because they are associated with someone who has a disability. 

In addition, under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) employees working for a “covered employer” meeting certain requirements may take up to 12 workweeks of family/medical leave in a 12-month period. That employee may take all 12 weeks at once, or may take leave in shorter increments of hours, days or weeks. 

However, California's anti-discrimination laws reach beyond that 12 week leave to protect employees who have taken leave, are working with a disability, or require accommodation based on a disability. Employees with disabilities and medical conditions are also entitled to reasonable accommodations and it is the employer's duty to engage them in the interactive process once the employer becomes aware of the need for accommodations.

What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” varies with each case and is fact-specific. However, reasonable accommodation may include:

  • Time-off
  • Leaves of absence, including prolonged leaves of absence
  • Sitting and standing accommodations
  • Special office equipment
  • Accommodations of physical restrictions (such as limited lifting)
  • Additional breaks

If you suffer from a disability or medical condition and would like to consult with an attorney regarding your employment situation, contact our firm for a free consultation


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