14 Feb If someone were denied employment and more qualified for the job than the applicant who was successful in getting the job, how does one prove that case?
Let’s first look at a situation where an applicant with a disability objectively is not as qualified as a person without a disability. Let’s assume that their qualifications are not less than a person without a disability because of their disability, but it’s because of some other factor such as education or skill. The employer doesn’t have to give preference to the person with a disability if that person with a disability is objectively less qualified than the person without a disability.
If the employer hires the person without a disability over someone with a disability who is more qualified, that, in and of itself, can be evidence of discrimination. Rarely is there direct evidence of discrimination in disability cases or other cases. It is extremely rare where you would have evidence of an employer writing an e-mail or sending a message to the effect of, “I don’t want to hire that person because of their disability,” because employers are a lot savvier than that.
You have to show through circumstantial evidence that it is more likely than not that you, as a person with a disability, did not get a job because of your disability. There could be stray comments to prove discrimination on the part of an employer to hire you, you may have evidence of comments that were made by an employer or supervisor where they made fun of people with disabilities, where they treated other people with disabilities poorly, or other things to show that the person had a discriminatory animus toward people with disabilities. There is very rarely any direct evidence of discrimination, but with enough circumstantial evidence you may be able to overcome the burden of proof to prevail on a disability discrimination claim.
In California law, and more recently in the California Supreme Court, it was held that the disability has to be a substantial motivating factor for the employer’s decision not to hire or to fire, or do some other adverse employment action. Therefore, you have to show that the employer was substantially motivated by your disability. That raises the bar a little bit. It used to just be simple motivation: Your prospective employer could have ten reasons why they didn’t hire you, and one of the reasons of those ten was your disability, and the other nine were non-protected reasons. Now, the bar is a little bit higher. In the past, that was enough to win on a disability discrimination case. Now, it’s got to be a little bit more than that; it has to be a substantial motivating factor.
If you have been refused a job because of a disability or a need for a disability accommodation, contact an employment lawyer today at the Khadder Law Firm for a free initial consultation.