Navigating through life as a disabled person is enough of a challenge. What compounds the problem is the ability to get and hold a decent job and make a living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the year 2016, only 17.9% of the disabled people were employed. The organization also reports that more disabled people prefer to work from home or prefer to be self-employed as against looking for jobs in conventional settings.
If you’re struggling with the daily challenges of working at your job, know that the law is on your side. If you think that you’re facing disability discrimination at work and that your company and employer can take some steps to make it easier for you to do your job, go ahead seek help. But, before you do, read ahead for an understanding of how the law protects your rights as a citizen looking to work and earn a regular income.
Do You Qualify as a Disabled Person?
The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines a person with a disability clearly. If you have some impairment, mental or physical that prevents you from conducting daily activities in a significant way, you are considered disabled. However, the impairment should be substantial enough to include actions like speaking, hearing, walking, seeing, doing manual tasks, breathing, or performing any other basic tasks that a normal person is capable of doing.
You can also receive protection from disability discrimination if your employer believes you have a disability when you don’t have one. Or, if you’re caring for or associated with a close family member who has a disability. If your condition is temporary or lasting for around 6 months or less, you may not have this protection. Like, for instance, if you’re recovering from an accident and likely to be back on the job soon. But, if you have had an illness like cancer that is on remission, you can request for special consideration from your employer.
As Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a group that works for the right of Americans with disabilities says, “At the end of the day, our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”
Under Certain Circumstances, the Law May Not Apply
If the company you’re working with has less than 15 employees, it does not fall under the purview of the ADA. The law typically protects you from disability discrimination at the time of hiring, salary payments, firing, training, getting assignments, receiving promotions and benefits, or any other perks of the job.
However, under certain circumstances, the law against job discrimination may not apply. For instance, if you don’t have the necessary educational qualifications, skills, experience, and other job requirements, you cannot qualify for the job just as a normal person. In case the disability prevents you from performing the job-related functions, the law does not regard it as a bias against your disability.
You Can Expect Reasonable Facilities on the Job
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, companies and employers are expected to make reasonable changes in the workplace to accommodate disabled employees. However, the law does not expect companies to make major changes that may incur significant costs. Or, if the company is small in size with limited resources, it is exempt from making special changes, and you cannot consider it disability discrimination.
You can expect facilities from the organization such as:
- Offering a wheelchair accessible workstation
- Providing a reader or interpreter to a blind person or a Braille keyboard for working
- Reassigning to another position on a similar level
- Allowing a flexible work schedule with work-from-home permits wherever possible
- Adjusting training programs and materials
- Adapting company policies to the needs of disabled employees
- Providing minor conveniences such as parking space closer to the building entrance
Areas Covered Under Disability Discrimination
In addition to getting you the job you deserve and making reasonable adjustments for your disability, the law also protects you from other workplace incidents. If any of these occur, you can look for employment defense litigation. The perpetrator of the bias can be anyone, your boss, colleague, manager, client, or customer. You can seek redressal for any kind of harassment or discrimination.
Small incidents like good-natured teasing, off-hand comments that are not particularly directed at you, or minor one-time incidents are not counted as harassment. But, if the discrimination is a frequent occurrence and prevents you from doing your job by creating a hostile workplace ambience, then you may want to look for help. Especially, if you feel that you have been wrongfully demoted or fired as a result of the disability discrimination.
Unfortunately enough, various kinds of bias exist in workplaces today such as gender, age, weight, color, race, religion, and nationality. Disability discrimination is only one such issue. And, if you feel you’ve been targeted, consult an expert attorney who can help you get the rights you deserve.