The workforce in America is diverse. Keeping it that way and providing opportunities to the citizens and immigrants here is one thing that keeps this country moving forward. Sadly, some employers decide that discrimination is perfectly acceptable.
The law disagrees with this. Employers can’t discriminate against people based on protected statuses. One of these protected statuses is a disability.
Basis for discrimination intolerance
There are two places where you can find specific protections for people who have disabilities. One of these is the Rehabilitation Act and the other is the Americans with Disabilities Act. In both of these cases, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for people who have disabilities. This protection is present for potential employees and current employees.
The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, which means accommodations that don’t place an undue hardship on the employer. One of the types of hardships that can be cited is a significant expense.
Employers are expected to accommodate people with disabilities by making seemingly small changes to the way work is done or the work space is set up. Making the work area wheelchair accessible is one of these accommodations. Providing written instructions for a person who has a cognitive disability or hearing impairment is another example.
Disabilities and the hiring process
Employees can’t specifically ask job applicants if they have a disability. Instead, the interviewer must focus on whether the person will be able to do the tasks necessary to complete the job that they are hiring for. This question must take reasonable accommodations into account. It is possible for employers to have employees complete a medical exam as a condition of hiring, but this must be done equally for anyone who is offered a job and not just for people who seem disabled. Upon hiring, the employer can only ask for medical documentation if that is necessary to support the employees requests for accommodations or to determine if the person can safely and successfully complete job duties.
The protections in these laws don’t apply only to a disabled employee. They also extend to people who are associated with a person with a disability, such as a parent with a disabled child or a person with a disabled spouse.
Harassment based on a person’s disability is also forbidden by law. Employers must take steps to prevent and address disability discrimination and harassment.
If employees are subjected to harassment or discrimination, they can take action against the employer. This starts with a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and might end with a lawsuit against the employer.