Friday, June 12, 2009

Disability discrimination in the workplace

Disability discrimination
Disability discrimination means treating individuals differently in employment because of their disability, perceived disability, or association with an individual with a disability. Some examples of disability discrimination include:

discriminating on the basis of physical or mental disability in various aspects of employment, including: recruitment, firing, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, pay, benefits, lay off, leave, and all other employment-related activities.

harassing an employee on the basis of his or her disability.

asking job applicants questions about their past or current medical conditions, or requiring job applicants to take medical exams.

creating or maintaining a workplace that includes substantial physical barriers to the movement of people with physical disabilities.

refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees with physical or mental disability that would allow them to work.

If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered disability discrimination. If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, there are federal and state laws protecting you from job discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of your disability. You are also protected if you are a victim of discrimination because of your association (family, business, social or other relationship) with an individual with a disability.

Federal law(s) cover people with disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), makes it illegal for private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

The Rehabilitation Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These are the primary federal laws that apply to workplace discrimination, although there are many other federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability. The laws of most states also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability, and some state laws have different standards than the ADA for determining who is covered by state disability discrimination law.

By Steve Spiegel
Seattle Workplace Examiner

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