Disabled Employees are Protected by Employee Discrimination Law
Going through life with a disability presents a whole new set of challenges that have to be faced and hurdles to overcome. Many people with disabilities face these challenges head-on and work twice as hard to overcome them. Unfortunately, there are many employers that may view a disability as a hindrance or a less desirable characteristic in an employee they would want under their employ.
Naturally, this is a sentiment that is generally considered to be unfair since many disabled employees do not have their work affected at all by a disability they must contend with. Disability is actually one of the many characteristics protected by various instances of legislation related to the protection of employees from discrimination.
Disability discrimination is defined as when an employer treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a disability. When this occurs, a perfectly qualified individual can suffer damages in the form of lost wages and earning potential. These discriminated against disabled individuals can seek compensation in the form of an employment discrimination claim.
Defining Disability for Employment Discrimination
Simply having a medical condition does not always mean that you are considered disabled and have the same protections. To be protected, an individual must have a disability as defined by the law and be qualified for the job.
- A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:
- A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
- A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
- A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment)
How can Someone Suffer Employment Discrimination Due to Disability?
Employee discrimination extends to any aspect of employment. This includes hiring, training job, assignments, promotions, benefits, pay, firing, layoffs, and any other condition of employment. This means that not only are those currently employed protected but also prospective employees. The interview process and employee application process must not discriminate against those without a disability. Employers may also not discriminate against those with a disabled significant other on the basis of their partner’s disability.
Harassment is another aspect of discrimination in the workplace. Workplace harassment can be defined as unwelcome or threatening behavior towards a certain employee that is done on the basis of a certain characteristic that employee displays which in this case would be a disability. Disabled individuals can experience workplace harassment in the form of name calling, inappropriate jokes, unwanted physical contact, threatening messages or confrontations both in person or via something like an email or note.
Isolated Cases of Harassment May Not Warrant a Full Discrimination Claim
It is important to note that isolated cases of harassment such as a manager calling a disabled employee an offensive name that targets their disability, may not always classify as workplace harassment on the level in which a discrimination claim would be called for.
In this situation, the manager would be making an improper remark and the disabled employee would be in their right to seek a superior to report the incident too but an employment discrimination claim calls for the employee to face an environment that would be considered hostile. In this isolated case, the manager could possibly receive a disciplinary action and apologize to the employee for their behavior or they could go unpunished due to negligence on the superior’s part and repeat their harassment which could lead to what an employee would rightly consider a hostile work environment.
Disabled Employees and Employers Reasonable Accommodation
Disability employment law requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. A reasonable accommodation is any alteration to a disabled employee’s workplace environment that will assist them in their job or make their application for the said job easier with regard to their disability.
Common examples of reasonable accommodation can include ramps for the wheelchair-bound, allowing an employee to work from a home office, scheduling concessions, interpreter or reader assistance, transfers to more suitable work positions, and providing specialized training. These all are accommodations that would be considered reasonable and the refusal of an employer to provide such accommodations after they have been demonstrated to be beneficial to a disabled employee and it is within the employer’s ability to do provide them, could be considered a form of employment discrimination.
A point of contention in many cases where accommodation is the focal point is where the line is drawn between reasonable and unreasonable accommodation. If providing an accommodation would cause undue hardship on an employer, then it would be considered unreasonable. If the accommodation becomes too difficult or expensive to implement because of an employer’s financial resources, their size, or the businesses needs then that would be considered undue hardship. An employer may not reject an accommodation simply because it will necessitate some expense and an employer has the right to choose the accommodation if there is more than one suitable for the same need.
Seek an Experienced Florida Employment Discrimination Attorney
If you or a loved one have suffered discrimination in the workplace because of a disability then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group about a free consultation on your potential claim. Our experienced lawyers will sit down with you to go over the details of your case and suggest possible options of legal action to take. Allow us to represent you and ensure that those liable for discrimination are held accountable and that you receive the settlement that you deserve.
Call our office at (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney. We fight hard to help accident victims access the many different types of compensation that are available to them.
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St. Petersburg, FL 33712