Nobody deserves to be disadvantaged at work because of their disability. Regardless, disability discrimination in the workplace is a prevalent issue in the United States.
This type of discrimination takes place when an employer treats an employee unfairly due to their disability. This could happen during the hiring, advancement or termination process.
The federal American with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for most employers to discriminate against employees based on their disabilities. It also protects employees who may be treated unfairly due to their association with a disabled person. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire you because they believe you’d miss work often to help your disabled wife.
The ADA also covers workers with a history of disability. For example, you can’t be passed up for a job opportunity simply because you’re in remission from cancer.
What are signs of disability discrimination at work?
In order to recognize and take action against disability discrimination in the workplace, you should know the signs. Not all indicators of disability discrimination are apparent. Here are some common signs – both clear and subtle:
- Ongoing harassment: If your boss or co-workers harass you over your disability to the point that it’s created a hostile environment, you may be experiencing discrimination. This would not include occasional teasing or insensitive comments. But if it’s frequent and harsh, it could be discrimination.
- Failing to accommodate you: The ADA requires employers to accommodate workers with disabilities in ways that aren’t overly expensive. This could include a closer parking spot if you are in a wheelchair. If your boss won’t provide simple adjustments, they may be discriminating against you.
- Refusing to promote you: This can be common for both workers with disabilities and workers with disabled loved ones. Perhaps your employer won’t promote you because they assume you’re too busy caring for your disabled child to take on new responsibilities. This type of situation may be a form of disability discrimination.
- Providing a bad reference: When you’re applying for new jobs, it’s common for potential employers to contact your past bosses. During these conversations, your previous employers cannot give you a negative reference due to your disability. For example, they cannot advise someone not to hire you because you often worked from home due to your disability.
There are many other ways that your employer could treat you unfairly at work. If you suspect that you’re experiencing disability discrimination, you could reach out to an employment attorney. They can analyze your situation and help guide your next steps.