People with disabilities tend to face additional challenges in their lives simply because of their condition. Unfortunately, far too many disabled workers are forced to deal with difficulties beyond those posed by their disability itself. One of the chief challenges that disabled workers often come up against is discrimination in the workplace. The best tool that people with disabilities have to face this discrimination is knowledge of their rights.
Types of Discrimination That Disabled Workers Face
Sadly, despite the efforts of countless people over human history, there are still many people in the world that discriminate against others for reasons that vary from misplaced hatred to simple ignorance. People with disabilities are often one of the most victimized groups. One of the main reasons for this is that there are fewer people out there fighting for them and shining light on the abuses they face than many other groups.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is the primary legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities, wasn't passed until 1990. There are many examples of discrimination that disabled workers come up against, both when looking for employment and when on the job.
When searching for a job, applicants with disabilities often face extra difficulty finding employment as many employers are wary of hiring them for one reason or another. Potential employers will often demand that you talk about your disability even if you have not asked for accommodation.
After what is often a longer search for employment than most people face, there are a whole other set of challenges disabled workers often deal with in the workplace.
Employees with disabilities may face an employer who refuses to make reasonable accommodations, which allow for changes to how the job is done, which give disabled individuals an equal chance for success. Disabled workers may also face an employer that refuses to promote them or pay them equally for a job they are fully capable of performing.
Aside from these obstacles to an employee's ability to succeed, disabled workers often face the additional problem of facing derogatory remarks or gestures from coworkers, bosses, or customers due to their disability.
Rights for Disabled Workers
The (ADA) protects people with disabilities from any sort of workplace discrimination. During the job search process, applicants are not required to disclose their disability to their employer. This is true even if the applicant later requires reasonable accommodation. Employees have the right to request and receive reasonable accommodation to give them an equal chance at success.
Employers are prohibited from refusing to hire or promote qualified applicants based on their disability. They are also barred from firing, demoting, harassing, or underpaying workers on this basis. Workers with disabilities are not required to submit to unnecessary medical inquiries.
Unfortunately, legal protections are not always available for people who face disability-based discrimination in the workplace. Private employers with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from federal disability discrimination laws. Visit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website to learn more about your rights.
What to do When Faced With Discrimination
People with disabilities who feel they have suffered discrimination by an employer, or potential employer, will need to bring their charge to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the state's fair employment practices agency. Dependent on the state in which the discrimination took place, there may be a deadline of as few as 180 days to file a charge.
Those facing discrimination due to a disability should also contact a lawyer. Discrimination charges are often very difficult to prove, especially when it comes to the hiring process. Even when an employer solely passes over an applicant due to their disability, it can be difficult to prove that there wasn't another reason that they chose to go with another applicant for the position.
There are many different types of disabilities, and each presents unique elements to proving a disability case. Cerebral palsy cases are all different and usually complex. A qualified attorney will know the best way in which to present your case to maximize your chances of success.
Hopefully, someday there will no longer be discrimination in the world, and employees will all be treated fairly, based upon their merit. Until then, though, it is important to protect your rights. Know the laws and make sure others treat you justly according to those laws.