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How to recognize disability discrimination in your workplace

Accommodating qualified employees who have disabilities is mandated by federal law, but not all workplaces go about it in the right way. These situations can lead to uncomfortable and illegal working conditions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (DFEH) protects workers who require accommodations or accessibility changes to perform their job duties. Employers are required to make these changes if they do not impose an “undue hardship.”

What are examples of disability discrimination?

Not all discrimination occurs out of a cruel intent. Often, it occurs when employers are inexperienced, insensitive or inflexible. The following are examples of workplace discrimination you might have experienced or observed:

  • The wrong person handled your accommodation request.
  • They asked you to reveal too much personal medical information.
  • They shared your medical information with the wrong person.
  • They required you to create the accommodation solution.
  • They failed to explore employment options if they cannot make the requested accommodations.
  • They claim the accommodation would cause “undue hardship” without evidence.

These accommodations cover people with physical or mental disabilities, actual or perceived. If the employer in good faith can prove that they would be reasonably unable to make the necessary changes, they may be protected under law.

What should you do if you believe you have been discriminated against?

If you believe that you have followed the proper steps and the employer has unreasonably failed to accommodate you, you have legal options. You may wish to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the DFEH within a year of the incident. They may investigate the incident and give the employer a chance to respond.

The DFEH may recommend mediation or you may be eligible for a lawsuit. Until the case is settled, your employer cannot retaliate against you or punish you. Doing so would be unlawful. If you experience workplace discrimination on the basis of disability, you may be entitled to compensation.

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