How to Recognize and Combat Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

How to Recognize and Combat Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Across the world, over 1 billion people are currently living with some form of disability. The World Health Organization reports this number is increasing every single day. Unfortunately, people with disabilities don’t just face everyday challenges related to their disability, often, they are subject to workplace discrimination. If you believe you or someone you love has been the victim of workplace discrimination due to a disability, contact Perkins Asbill at 916-446-2000 to talk to one of our legal professionals. 

What is disability discrimination?

On July 26, 1990, President George W. Bush signed the Americans with Disability Act. The law mandates people with disabilities enjoy the same rights as other Americans in terms of employment, purchase of goods, and participation in state and local services. The ADA defines a person as disabled if they have a physical or mental disability that “substantially limits one or more major life activities,” they have a history of such a disability, or if they are perceived to have a protected disability. 

Under the law, employers cannot discriminate against a person because of their disability. This law applies to persons applying for a job and those who already hold a position. If an employer violates the Americans with Disabilities act, they may be subject to an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and civil damages.

Examples of disability discrimination in the workplace

Disability discrimination comes in many forms. In some cases, it may be obvious what your employer is doing is wrong. Other times, they may use tactics to make it appear they are doing the right thing or have no other choice. This is why it is extremely important you understand what disability discrimination looks like. Examples of discrimination include:

Failure to hire, promote, or train based on disability

An employer does not have to hire you just because you have a disability. If another applicant is more qualified for the position, the hiring manager has the right to choose that person. However, if the only distinguishing factor between you and the other applicant is your disability, the employer may be guilty of disability discrimination. The same applies to promotions and training in the workplace. If your employer passes you over for a promotion you are qualified for or fails to provide training offered to other employees, you may have an ADA claim. 

Failure to make accommodations

Just because you have a disability, that does not mean you are not able to do the same job as other employees every day. It may just mean you need a little assistance. If you have a disability, the law requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations to allow you to continue at your job. This may include:

  • Modifications to the workplace or equipment
  • Reduced work schedule
  • Job restructuring
  • Other adaptive devices or services

An employer must provide accommodations unless they can show it would provide an undue hardship. If your employer refuses to work with you to find a reasonable accommodation, contact a workplace disability discrimination attorney. 

Termination, demotion, or loss of pay due to disability

It is not an employer’s job to determine whether you can no longer do a job because of a disability. Although California is an at-will state, this law does not allow your employer to fire you just because of a disability. Additionally, they cannot demote you, cut your hours, or reduce your pay because of a disability. 

Harassment

Most employers know they are not allowed to fire someone because of a disability. Unfortunately, many turn to harassment, bullying, or embarrassment to try to get around the law. This is illegal. An employer cannot intimidate you or try to make you uncomfortable in an effort to try to get you to leave your position. Further, they cannot ask you about your medical records or have you take a medical exam to stay in your position. Harassment comes in many forms, and sadly, some employers think they can get away with it. You have rights. If you believe your employer is harassing you because of your disability, contact a disability discrimination attorney. 

What to do if you believe you are the victim of disability discrimination

While the law protects persons with disabilities, there is a very specific process you must go through to defend your rights. These rules are in place to make sure you get the help you need and to ensure the employer has the opportunity to remedy the situation. If you believe you are a victim of discrimination, you must go through the following steps:

  1. Report your concerns to your internal HR department: The first step is to let upper management and human resources know what is going on. In some cases, they may genuinely believe a reassignment or reduced hours is what you want. In this case, there may be an easy fix, and you can come to a mutual agreement. 
  2. File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: If your employer is unwilling or unable to work with you, the next step is to file an official complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC investigates all complaints related to disability discrimination. The EEOC will set up an interview with you to understand what happened and discuss the next steps moving forward. Do not skip this step; you must file a complaint before you can file a lawsuit against your employer. 
  3. Contact a workplace discrimination attorney: Disability discrimination is illegal. If your employer violates the ADA, you may be eligible for lost pay, your old job back, and other damages. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and help you pursue your case. 

Know your rights

Disability discrimination is wrong. At Perkins Asbill, we aggressively fight for our clients to help them get the justice they deserve. If you believe you are the victim of disability discrimination, don’t wait. The law allows you a limited time to file a complaint and pursue legal damages. Contact Perkins Asbill at 916-446-2000 or fill out an online request to learn more about your case.