Disability discrimination in the workplace is illegal under both state and federal law, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop some employers from engaging in this behavior. It’s important to learn about the many different types of disability discrimination so you can recognize when your rights are being violated. Here are five examples of disability discrimination in the workplace:
Example #1: Not Hiring A Candidate Because of His Disability
Employers are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on whether someone has a disability or not. In fact, employers are not allowed to make any job-related decisions based on an employee’s disability. This includes decisions involving promotions, lay offs, terminations, pay raises, and job reassignments. Therefore, if an employer decides not to hire an applicant because he is noticeably disabled, this is a form of illegal discrimination.
Example #2: Failing to Accommodate An Employee’s Disability
In most cases, employers must be willing to accommodate employees with disabilities. An accommodation is any adjustment that is made in the workplace to help a disabled individual apply for a position, perform the duties of his job, or enjoy the benefits of his employment. Installing a wheelchair ramp in the office so a handicapped employee can freely move through the building is an example of an accommodation. Another example would be providing an interpreter for a deaf job applicant during the interview.
Employers must grant these accommodation requests unless doing so would cause undue hardship, meaning it would be too difficult or financially impossible to make the accommodation. For instance, a small business may be able to prove that installing a wheelchair ramp would be financially impossible. In this case, the small business would not be obligated to grant the accommodation request.
However, an employer cannot decide to deny the employee’s accommodation request simply because he does not want to do it or because it will cost money to make the accommodation. This is a form of discrimination that cannot be tolerated in the workplace.
It’s important to mention that an employer does not have to make the exact accommodation that you request. If there are alternatives available, the employer can choose which accommodation he would like to make.
Example #3: Harassing Someone With A Disability
Harassment is a form of discrimination, so it is illegal to harass someone because he has a disability, had one in the past, or is believed to have one. Harassment can include telling offensive jokes, making offensive comments or gestures, or physically or verbally threatening someone. It’s important to note that this behavior is typically not considered harassment if it only occurs one time. In order to be considered harassment, the behavior must occur so frequently that it creates a hostile working environment.
The law protects disabled workers from being harassed by anyone in the workplace, including supervisors, co-workers, and even clients or customers. For example, if an employer is aware that a client is harassing a disabled employee, it is the employer’s responsibility to step in and take action. Therefore, it is illegal to harass a disabled employee and to fail to protect a disabled employee from harassment.
Example #4: Asking An Applicant to Take A Medical Exam Before A Job Offer Has Been Made
Employers must follow certain rules when it comes to interviewing job applicants and requesting medical examinations. It is perfectly acceptable for an employer to ask someone to take a medical examination, however this request cannot be made until a job offer has been extended. Requesting an examination prior to extending a job offer is illegal. Why? It is safe to assume that an employer that wants to see the results of an examination prior to extending a job offer will use the results to determine if the applicant should be offered the job. This means the employer will be discriminating against applicants based on their medical conditions or disabilities, which is illegal.
There is one more rule that employers must follow when it comes to medical examinations. Employers must require anyone that is offered a job to take the medical examination—they cannot pick and choose which employees must undergo a medical examination. If you are offered a job under the condition that you pass a medical examination, but find out that other individuals were not given the same condition, this is a form of disability discrimination.
Before you are offered a job, the only time your medical condition should come up is if the employer is asking whether you are physically able to perform the job duties with or without an accommodation. Besides this, the employer should not discuss your medical condition until a job offer has been extended.
Example #5: Not Promoting Someone Because of A Family Member’s Disability
As previously mentioned, it is illegal for an employer to make any job-related decision based on whether an employee is disabled or not. But, many people do not realize that it is also illegal to make any job-related decision based on whether or not an employee has an immediate family member with a disability. For instance, let’s say an employee is not disabled, but she is married to a disabled man. The employee applies for a promotion, but she is not given the job. Later, she finds out that she was passed over for the promotion because the employer wrongly assumes that she cannot commit herself to her work because her husband is disabled. This is a form of discrimination because the decision was not based on the employee’s qualifications, but rather on the fact that her husband is disabled.
Are you a victim of disability discrimination? If so, seek legal representation as soon as possible. The employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates are ready to seek justice on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.