WHAT IS POLIO?
Polio is a viral infectious disease that is spread from one person to another by the fecal-oral route. While the majority of polio infections are asymptomatic, in rare cases (about 1/100) the virus enters the central nervous system. Within the central nervous system, polio infects and destroys motor neurons, resulting in weak muscles and paralysis. Fortunately, polio vaccines were developed in 1955, and, in recent years, various organizations have led enhanced vaccination efforts, which may soon result in global eradication of the disease.
Polio renders its victims extremely weakened, usually withering limbs and forcing people to walk with a cane. Polio also often causes gastrointestinal infections, respiratory tract infections, and an increase in white blood cells. Treatment for the disease often includes the use of a cane or brace as well as antibiotics.
WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF POLIO
- Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
- Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
- Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
- Your employer does not accommodate your weakened muscles and limbs and need to walk with a cane
HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE POLIO
To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. The employee must then show that:
- his or her disability results in physical limitations
- that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
- and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability
Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act provide protection against discrimination based on disability. Polio can render an individual disabled, deserving of protection from discrimination. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's polio. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with polio so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. For example, if an individual with polio needs to wear a supportive brace to work or walk with a cane at work, the employer has an obligation to accommodate the employee accordingly, unless doing so would place an undue burden on the employer.
Polio is also a medical condition, within the definition of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, deserving of protection from discrimination. An employer may not take an adverse action (such as firing, refusing to hire, or failing to accommodate an employee's needs) on the basis of an employee's medical condition. There is an obvious need for accommodation of the individual's doctor appointments, some of which may constitute medical emergencies and may require absences during regular work hours. An employer has an obligation to accommodate the employee accordingly.
- For Legal Help see Finding an Attorney and David H. Greenberg, California Employment Law Attorney.