A major life activity is really determined on a case-by-case basis, but a key major life activity is the ability to perform the essential functions of your job; in other words, to be able to work. So, if your physical or mental impairment limits your ability to perform your job, then it would qualify under the state law or the FEHA, as a state disability. If the major life activity is substantially limited, then it would qualify as disability under the ADA.
Other forms of major life activities could include being able to drive, or being able to read, or see. It’s important to note that for your disability to be protected in the employment process, you should be able to perform the essential functions of your job position, with or without a reasonable accommodation. If you can perform the essential functions of your job with an accommodation, then you are protected under the disability discrimination laws. (This is carefully determined on a case-by-case basis during facts obtained during inquiry).
For instance, if you’re hired as a typist, basically your job is to type all day, then an essential function of your job would be your ability to type. If you don’t have fingers or you have problems with your hands, that could make it difficult or impossible to type. The key is that an employer can’t discriminate against you if you’re able to perform the essential functions of your job with an accommodation.
In the case of a typist, one accommodation might be to have software that allows you to dictate rather than type. The dictation software would take the place of typing. Or, if you’re seeing impaired, but you can see the keys if they have some form of braille on them, that would be an accommodation that assists you in performing the essential functions of your job. In sum, the “essential functions” component of a discrimination case looks at your ability to perform the essential job functions with or without an accommodation based on the nature of the disability and how it impairs your ability to perform the essential functions.
Because a disability is defined by the way it affects your ability to perform a major life activity, the difference between ADA and FEHA in terms of “substantially limits,” versus just “limits” a major life activity is very.
If you have a disability that limits a major life activity, such as performing the essential functions of your job, and you have experienced disability discrimination by your employer, contact an employment lawyer today at the Khadder Law Firm for a free initial consultation.