California Employment Law: Disability under FEHA

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act basically defines two categories of disability: mental disability and physical disability. Each category contains its own specific definitions. In addition, under FEHA, an employee with a “medical condition” which is not quite considered a disability is also entitled to a reasonable accommodation.

The following are the specific definitions of physical disability under FEHA:having any physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss that affects one or more of several body systems and limits a major life activity. The body systems listed include the neurological, immunological, muscular and skeletal, respiratory, speech, reproductive, digestive, urinary, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine systems. The major life activity is considered limited if it makes the achievement of that major activity difficult.

It should be noted that sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, or psychoactive substance use disorders resulting form the current unlawful use of controlled substances or other drugs, are specifically excluded and are not protected as disabilities under FEHA.

Once a disability that is protected under the law is established, an employer is obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would constitute an under hardship on the employer’s business operation.