Among other groups of employees, those who have a documented disability may be protected under a federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
This law, which applies to employers in the private sector who have more than 15 employees, is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. It should be noted, moreover, that California may have its own set of laws that apply to a disabled person's employment situation, and those laws are enforced by state regulators.
The benefit of this law is that it gives people who have physical, mental, learning and other documentable disabilities the ability to find and keep work without having to fear being shut out of the job market because of a condition they cannot help. Basically, an employer cannot refuse to hire, fire, or take adverse action against an employee because of a disability.
However, the reality is that many jobs require a certain set of skills that someone may not be able to perform because of an illness, condition, or injury. For instance, in the public sector, firefighters and police officers generally need to be able to move fast. An employer has the right to set objective, minimum qualifications for a job, such as education and work experience requirements, without the fear of being accused of employment discrimination.
An employer also may define what it considers essential functions of a job, which are skills or tasks that an employee must be able to do in order to get the work one effectively. An employer must, however, offer what is called a reasonable accommodation to someone with a disability but who otherwise is most qualified for the work.