According to the CDC, 61 million Americans live with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act was created to help prevent discrimination against these individuals.

United States disability laws make it illegal for anyone to refuse communications, housing, or services to people with disabilities. It’s also illegal for an employer to refuse to accommodate an employee’s disability or refuse to hire someone based on a disability.

Neither co-workers nor employers are allowed to harass a person with a disability or show bias against them in the workplace.

So can an employer legally ask for proof of a disability in San Francisco? Learn more about your legal rights below.

Employers Cannot Ask About Disabilities

Your disability is your business. Employers are not legally allowed to ask you about it when they’re considering you for a job, and you are not legally obligated to release the details of your disability. 

However, suppose you need special accommodation to be able to perform your duties once you are hired. In this case, employers are allowed to ask enough to know how to reasonably accommodate your request.

Employers may need to arrange for additional accessibility at a work site. Likewise, they may need to modify a computer or telephone service for your use.

With this in mind, understand that some disabilities may affect the way you’re able to perform a job. 

When you’re being interviewed, a prospective employer may not directly ask you if you have a disability. They are allowed to ask if you’re able to perform basic duties of the job, however. This is why some employers ask if you can lift a certain weight or stand for a certain number of hours.

Sometimes, it can be beneficial for you to disclose the disability during the hiring process. If you’re applying to provide customer service on the telephone and you have hearing problems, the employer can take proactive steps to ensure you’re able to do the job.

Whether you choose to reveal your disability or not, the employer cannot take retaliatory actions against you because of the presence of a disability after hire.

Requesting Proof of a Disability

You can ask for special accommodations if you need them. However, an employer may ask for medical documentation of your condition. 

Not all disabilities are obvious, and employers may be skeptical if they cannot see a problem directly. You may have a cognitive disability, for instance, or suffer from PTSD. These are valid disabilities, even if they are not readily apparent to everyone.

You have the right to refuse to provide medical documentation. Be aware that if you do so, the employer is allowed to deny your accommodation request.

Since 2016, the ADA regulations clarified the meaning of the term “disability” to ensure that the definition could be broadly applied without extensive analysis. This means that it is likely some employers will no longer question some of the accommodation requests that they might have previously.

Jobs Are Based on Skills

In California, jobs are supposed to be based on skills, education, experience, or any combination of those elements. Whether you apply at a large corporation or a small, family-owned business, employers are legally not allowed to refuse employment based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

If an employer asks pointed and detailed questions about your disability either before or after hiring you for a job, you may have a valid disability discrimination claim against them. The same may be true if you are harassed at work or get continually passed over for promotions you qualify for.

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About The Author

Nicholas J. Ferraro

Nicholas J. Ferraro is a skilled labor and employment lawyer and the founder of Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers, Inc. Based in San Diego, he focuses on representing employees in class action and collective litigation cases. Education: Mr. Ferraro attended the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was a member of the San Diego Law Review. Experience: Over a decade of legal practice, representing more than 100,000 employees. Court Admissions: Mr. Ferraro represents his clients throughout the State of California and the State of Washington. He is a member of the State Bar of California. Community Involvement: Active member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and the San Diego County Bar Association.