Labor and Employment

Disability Discrimination in Employment

The law protects people with disabilities from unfair hiring practices and workplace discrimination. Generally, your boss cannot fire, demote, or treat you unfairly because of a disability. Your boss may also have to make special work arrangements to help you do your job. Employers who discriminate against disabled people may be sued or fined by the government.

The Law Defines a Disability

Anti-discrimination laws cover only major disabilities. A disability must seriously limit your physical or mental activities. For example, if you use a wheelchair the law generally protects you from workplace discrimination.

A small disability such as a sprained ankle generally is not covered.An employer can require that you are able to fulfill the basic requirements of a job. For example, it would not be discrimination if a company refuses to hire a blind person to drive a truck.

The Law Requires Reasonable Accommodations

Employers sometimes must make exceptions to help disabled workers. For example, if you are diabetic, your boss may have to give you extra breaks to take your insulin shots. The law calls this a reasonable accommodation. Employers are not required to make exceptions if they are too big. For instance, a small business would generally not have pay for an accommodation that would make it go broke.

The Law Forbids Harassing Disabled Workers

You cannot be legally harassed at work because of a disability. Harassment generally requires persistent, hurtful ridicule. Being regularly teased at work because you wear hearing aids, for example, could be considered harassment.

Generally, remarks must be serious enough to make it hard for you to work. The law prohibits your boss and co-workers, and sometimes even your customers and clients, from harassing you because of a disability.

You Can Take Action Against Disability Discrimination

If you believe you are a victim of employment discrimination because of a disability, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Generally, you have 180 days to file an EEOC complaint, but you should not wait to act. The EEOC will assign a case worker for your file who can help you determine your legal rights. You should also contact an attorney.

An Employment Lawyer Can Help

The laws on workplace discrimination and disabilities can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment lawyer.

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