Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
People with disabilities overcome personal challenges to be capable and productive members of the workforce. They certainly don’t need to face additional obstacles due to discrimination in the workplace. The stigma, misconceptions, and fear surrounding disabilities can be as disabling as the actual impairments.
To address the problem of disability discrimination in the workplace, US employers with at least 15 employees, and California employers with at least 5 employees, are prohibited from engaging in workplace discrimination based on employee disability.
What is a Disability?
A disability is a documented physical or mental condition that substantially limits a person’s major life activities. This definition is purposely broad and includes:
- Physical impairments – Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more systems of the body.
- Mental disorders – Any mental or psychological disorder, including mental, intellectual, and emotional conditions and learning disabilities.
A qualified individual is someone who is capable of performing the essential functions of a job. This is a person who is qualified to perform a job in terms of skill, experience, and education. Such people are considered qualified individuals regardless of whether they require reasonable accommodations due to mental or physical disabilities.
What is Considered Disability Discrimination?
It is illegal for an employer to deny equal jobs or benefits to disabled employees. An employer is forbidden from using discriminatory qualification standards to filter out those with disabilities. Likewise, employers may not assess employees using discriminatory administrative standards, criteria, or methods that disadvantage disabled workers.
Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled employees to perform their job duties. They may not handle disabled employees by segregating or adversely classifying them due to their disabilities.
Employers may not disadvantage employees by negatively assessing them in areas affected by their disabilities. Employers also may not engage in relationships with third parties, such as labor unions and employment agencies, in a manner that adversely affects disabled workers.
A medical examination is only allowed if all employees are subject to the same examination, and it must take place after the job offer is made and before employment begins. Under certain circumstances, medical examinations may be performed during employment only if they are related to the job and business necessity.
An employer may ask about an employee’s physical or mental abilities only to determine whether the employee is able to perform the job duties. Also, an employee may voluntarily disclose information about medical history and undergo a medical examination as part of an employee health program.
How to Prove Disability Discrimination
A disabled person, or someone presumed to be disabled, must be able to demonstrate an ability to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations. That person must then demonstrate that, due to a disability or request for accommodation, he or she was:
- Denied employment
- Denied promotion
- Adversely impacted in any other aspect of employment
If you believe you have been the victim of disability discrimination in the workplace, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney. Many employment law claims must be filed within a limited period of time, so it is important to act quickly to protect your rights.
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