Laws surrounding workplace disability discrimination

New York employees may be interested in some information about disability discrimination and what is prohibited by federal law. There are many types of discrimination in the workplace against those with disabilities, from outright harassment to failure to accommodate properly for the employee’s disability.

Employers who are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act have a legal duty not to discriminate against those employees or prospective employees with disabilities. This also includes those who have a family member with a disability. The discrimination prohibition also covers an employee’s history of a disability or a temporary disability, as well.

Generally, workplace discrimination based on disability includes making decisions about hiring and firing, benefits, promotions, salary and job assignments in a discriminatory way based on the employee’s disability. It is also illegal to engage in harassment of an employee due to a disability. Though this doesn’t cover isolated or minor incidents, continued harassment, however small, may constitute a violation. The employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations for the person with the disability. This could include wheelchair accessibility or the provision of an interpreter for a deaf employee. If providing these accommodations would be too difficult for the employer, they may be covered under the undue hardship exception. This requires a showing that the cost or difficulty would be too great, given the financial resources or size of the employer.

Determining whether an employer is engaging in disability discrimination may require the guidance of an attorney who may be able to assess the work situation of the employee and recommend the appropriate legal action. This could include filing a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Disability Discrimination“, December 15, 2014

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