Charlie Sheen’s Disability Discrimination Claims

Charlie Sheen’s Disability Discrimination Claims

Yesterday, Charlie Sheen filed his high profile lawsuit against Chuck Lorre and Warner Brothers.

Among others, Charlie Sheen asserts claims for disability discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Interestingly, nowhere in his complaint does Mr. Sheen allege that he is disabled. Instead, he alleges that Defendants have accused him of having physical and mental disabilities. Likewise, Mr. Sheen alleges that Warner Brothers contends that health-care experts have described him as suffering from a “hypomaniac” psychological state and observed that he is in an alleged “manic” and/or “bi-polar” state.

Perhaps Charlie Sheen is simply unwilling to claim that he is disabled or his lawyers have not had a chance to have him diagnosed. Regardless, Mr. Sheen can still pursue disability discrimination claims without actually alleging that he is disabled.

Like the American’s with Disabilities Act, FEHA not only protects individuals with disabilities, it protects individuals who are “regarded as” being disabled. The rationale behind affording such protection to individuals “regarded as” disabled is that stereotyping individuals as disabled is deemed to be just as handicapping as the limitations flowing from actual impairments. Accordingly, in his lawsuit, Charlie Sheen has stated viable claims that he suffered unlawful harassment, retaliation and discrimination because of his perceived disabilities.

Finally, Mr. Sheen alleges that Defendants failed to provide reasonable accommodations for his perceived disabilities. While it is clear that employers have no obligation to accommodate employees that are merely “regarded as” disabled under the American’s with Disabilities Act, employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to employees that are “regarded as” disabled under California’s FEHA. Gelfo v. Lockheed Martin Corp. (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 34.

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