Disability Discrimination Defined

Disability DiscriminationThe Americans with Disabilities Act (or “ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act guarantee that individuals with a disability are treated fairly by employers. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers federal employees, and the ADA covers everyone else. Provisions of the two laws are very similar.

Unfortunately, despite these laws, disability discrimination still occurs. Here’s what you should know about disability discrimination and how to get help if an employer has discriminated against you due to a known or perceived disability.

Disability Discrimination Defined

Under federal law, individuals cannot be treated differently because the employer suspects or knows about a disability. Doing so may be considered discrimination.

Employers cannot discriminate in any area of employment: hiring, job assignments, layoffs or firing, training, salary, demotions or promotions, or any other job benefits or conditions of employment.

Because some employers have also been known to discriminate against  employees or potential applicants if their spouse or child has a disability, the law also protects people in those instances.

Employers Must Make Reasonable Accommodations for Disabled Employees

Anti-discrimination laws require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, unless the accommodations would cause undue hardship on the company.   An accommodation would cause “undue hardship” if it were too expensive or otherwise difficult for the employer to make the accommodation.

What Employers Can and Cannot Do

It is against the law for any employer to harass an employee about a current or past disability, and this includes both physical and mental impairments. Harassment is defined as offensive remarks or teasing, or any action that creates a hostile work environment.

Employers cannot outright ask job applicants medical questions or ask whether the person has a disability before extending a job offer. However, employers can ask whether the applicant feels he or she can perform the job and whether they would need accommodations to do the job.

Once a job is offered, an employer can then ask certain medical questions or require a medical exam, but all job candidates must participate, not just those known to have or suspected of having a disability.

Once an individual is hired, an employer can ask medical questions if they are trying to support a request for accommodation to perform the job. An employer can also require a medical exam if the employer needs medical documentation to safely provide the accommodation.

Employers are not allowed to create physical barriers in the workplace that impede the movements of those with physical disabilities.

What Does Disability Discrimination Look Like?

Discrimination can be very obvious, but at other times discrimination can occur in indirect or subtle ways that are more difficult to perceive.

For example, job applicants may viewed as less favorable because they have a history of a disability. For example, a candidate who has had cancer, but it is in remission or under control, might not be considered for a job. Or, an employer may make disparaging remarks to an employee who has become partially disabled due to a car accident and refuse to make reasonable accommodations for the employee to be able to continue to do their job.  An employer may view an employee with a disabled child as unreliable and refuse to give reasonable accommodations to the employee.

Were You Discriminated Against Due to Disability?

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to a disability, Attorney Christopher Q. Davis has the skills and knowledge to help you fight back. Contact the Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis today to learn more by calling (646) 430-7930.