The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees who have physical and/or mental disabilities from harassment or discrimination. California Government Code § 12940 states:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification…(a) For an employer, because of the …physical disability [or] mental disability …of any person, to…discriminate against the person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
Physical Disability includes physiological disease, disorder, condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss that affects a body system and limits a major life activity. [Gov. Code § 12926(k).]
Mental Disability is defined as having a mental or psychological disorder or condition that limits a major life activity. [Gov. Code § 12926 (i).]
The protection for disabled workers in California greatly exceeds protections currently afforded by Federal law. Under California law, the definitions of “mental disability” and “physical disability” require merely that the disability “limit” a major life activity. Under the ADA the condition must “substantially limit,” a major life activity. This Federal definition gives the employer more room to argue for denying request for accommodations to their disabled employees.
A “major life activity” is broadly construed to include physical, mental, and social activities and working. [Gov. Code § 12926(k)(B).] Additionally, under California law “whether a condition limits a major life activity shall be determined without respect to any mitigating measures, unless the mitigating measure itself limits a major life activity.” [Gov. Code § 12926.1.] Thus, more mental and physical condition will qualify as disabilities under California law.