Understanding Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

By Susan McGuire posted 20 days ago


Disability discrimination is a valid concern in the workplace and no one deserves such discrimination. Workplace disability discrimination can keep disabled individuals from earning money and being independent. A number of disabled people work full-time while others may do part-time or seasonal work. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers disabled people protection and they need to know their rights. The act does not require employers to hire a disabled person over a more qualified applicant but it is designed to protect qualified workers with disabilities.  

What is a disability?

A disability can be a physical or mental condition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), disabilities have three dimensions: they restrict participation, limit activity and impair the individual. Problems with hearing, seeing, walking, or learning are considered as disabilities. Some people may be born with a disability, while others may develop one later in life. Short-term disabilities, such as broken bones, are not covered under the ADA. 

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee poorly because of a disability. The Lacy Employment Law Firm represents individuals who have been discriminated against based on their disability. Go to employment-labor-law.com to find out more. 

Common examples of disability discrimination

A disabled person should be employable if he or she can perform the tasks required. However, disability discrimination may even start playing a role during the hiring process. For example, it may come in the form of questions asked during an interview. An employer cannot ask if a person is disabled. What an employer can ask is whether the person can complete the tasks required of the role.

A potential employer cannot ask a person to take a medical exam without first offering employment. After choosing to hire a disabled person, an employer can then request a medical exam. 

Discrimination can also happen during assignments or training in the form of derogatory comments, jokes or gestures related to a disability. The employer may not pay a disabled person equally to coworkers despite the fact that the person does the job as capably as them. 

Reasonable accommodation

Employers must provide reasonable accommodation for disabled employees. An example of this would be providing an employee in a wheelchair with a lower desk to make work more ergonomic. 

It may be having an interpreter for a deaf worker. People with disabilities may need special assistance, such as special parking spaces or larger bathroom stalls. They may need changes in how a job is done to give them an equal chance of succeeding in a role. 

Employers should negotiate in good faith with employees who need accommodations. Even if an accommodation may seem reasonable, the ADA does not require employers to make accommodations that would be a financial hardship for them. 

Common factors for establishing this would be the size of the business, the cost of the accommodation, the effect it would have on the business and the resources available to the business. 


An employer should not treat an employee differently because of a disability and doing so could be considered harassment. Harassment may come in the form of disparaging remarks and frequent and severe harassment could lead to a hostile work environment. Harassment may also come in the form of demoting or firing a disabled employee. 

Harassment doesn’t necessarily have to come from the employer but can come from a peer in the department where the disabled person works or an employee in another department. If a disabled person becomes the victim of harassment, a complaint should be filed and speaking to an attorney is advisable. 

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