Understanding Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

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Disability discrimination in the workplace

Disability discrimination in the workplace is a serious problem. 19.1% of disabled people are working according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many frequently work without benefits. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids employers from discriminating against employees and applicants with disabilities. For those of you with a disability, it will benefit you to learn all you can regarding disability discrimination in the workplace.

Defining Disability

Disability is a physical or mental disorder that restricts activities, movements, and senses. Disabilities may involve communication, hearing, learning, mental health, mobility, social relationships, thinking, and vision. It impairs, limits activity, and restricts participation in activities. Some people have a disability at birth, while others may develop a disability later in life as the result of an accident. Causes include congenital disabilities, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, and motor vehicle accidents.

Types of Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination in the workplace can be blatant or subtle. Direct discrimination is when an employee is the recipient of unfair treatment as a direct result of their disability. Direct discrimination occurs when a job candidate with a disability faces discrimination for a less qualified applicant who does not have a disability.

Indirect disability discrimination happens when company policies that apply to an entire organization place disabled workers at a disadvantage. If a business requires all employees to work night shifts, this may impede the employee who needs nightly medical treatment such as dialysis.

Reasonable Accommodation

Proper accommodations for disabled employees allow them to apply for positions and perform the tasks of the job. An employer must offer reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities at the employer’s expense. The only exclusion to this policy is if offering reasonable accommodation creates a financial hardship for the employer.

The law protects workers from answering medical questions and identifying as disabled. An employer can ask a person if they can complete a given task. The employer can’t request a physical exam until they extend an offer of employment. An official offer is necessary before requesting a physical exam and not before.

Need Help?

If a family member, friend, or yourself are facing disability discrimination and would like advice, please contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service. Take action immediately. Explain your rights to your employer, as they may not be familiar with your disability or the ADA. If this does not encourage your employer to act, file an internal complaint. The complaint will allow the company to correct its mistake. The formal complaint will also legally put the company on notice.

If your formal complaint does not receive action, file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will likely investigate, mediate, or even settle the case. After the processing of the charge, the EEOC can issue you a right-to-sue letter, which allows you to advance with your claim in court. If you are the recipient of workplace discrimination, remember that it is against the law and act now.

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