Elon Musk’s Stunning and Discriminatory Statements About Disabled Employees

In a stunning display of discriminatory animus, Elon Musk mocked a former Twitter employee with muscular dystrophy who required workplace accommodations.  Musk claimed that the former employee used his disability as an “excuse” and questioned whether the employee’s required accommodations were a ruse to avoid performing work.  According to Musk, the employee “did no actual work, claimed as an excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing.”

In California, it is illegal to deny a disabled applicant or employee reasonable accommodations.  Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments that are:

(A)      effective in enabling an applicant with a disability to have an equal opportunity to be considered for a desired job, or

(B)      effective in enabling an employee to perform the essential functions of the job the employee holds or desires, or

(C)      effective in enabling an employee with a disability to enjoy equivalent benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by similarly situated employees without disabilities.

Reasonable accommodations can include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.  See also Cal. Code Regs. Tit. 2, § 11065(p).

Reasonable accommodations can also include a leave of absence.

As the California Court of Appeals put it in Prilliman v. United Air Lines, Inc., 53 Cal. App. 4th 935, 953 (1997):

“The law and the regulations clearly contemplate not only that employers remove obstacles that are in the way of the progress of the disabled, but that they actively restructure their way of doing business in order to accommodate the needs of their disabled employees.”

In Twitter’s case, while Musk later apologized, his apology does not detract from the fact that his statements are obviously distasteful and quite possibly illegal.