A disability of any type can be one of the hardest things to have in life. If you or a loved one has recently become disabled due to an illness or accident, there will be many things to learn and adapt to.
A person who has become disabled will have to face numerous challenges at every point of life. These challenges may be presented at the work place, while commuting, or may be in the form of day-to-day tasks. People with disabilities are also often ridiculed or discriminated against by others.
If you are being discriminated against at your workplace because of your disability, you have to take a stand and assert your rights.
What are the Laws for the Disabled.?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was put into effect in 1990 and it aims to protect the civil rights of any person with disabilities. The Act helps disabled people gain equal opportunities at employment, in public places, while transporting or availing state and local government services, and in telecommunication.
The ADA applies to people who have a physical or mental problem that limits one or more of their 'major life activities'. In addition, the ADA applies to those who have had such problems in the past and also to those whom other people regard to be affected by one of these problems, when in reality, they aren't.
Major life activities include but are not limited to walking, standing, moving about, seeing, reading, breathing, hearing, concentrating, eating, sleeping, performing manual tasks, etc. Furthermore, major body functions such as those related to the immune, digestive, nervous, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, and circulatory systems; bowel and bladder movements; and normal cell growth are covered by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 which went into effect in 2009.
How Does the Law Affect Employers.?
The ADA only applies to those organizations with 15 or more employees. An employer cannot discriminate against you based on your inability to perform duties that are not essential to the position you're applying for. It is only necessary for you to be able to carry out the fundamental duties required by the job.
As per the ADA, you should also have the education, skills, licenses, or experience as required by the employer. If you are qualified for the job and can perform all the essential functions related to the job, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your disability. As per the ADA, you will be entitled to all activities and privileges related to employment such as hiring, training, assignments, promotions, tenure, salary, leaves, and other benefits.
Shouldn't the Employer Make Accommodations.?
Your employer is not required to lower the job standards to accommodate you. Also, it isn't mandatory for an employer to provide disabled employees any personal assistive devices such as Pride Victory scooters, hearing aids or wheel chairs.
An employer may make certain adjustments at the workplace or modifications to the job profile so that the employee can accomplish essential tasks comfortably. These adjustments are known as reasonable accommodation under the ADA and may include providing e-readers or interpreters, changing the employee's work schedule, restructuring the job profile, modifying policies, tests or training material, modifying the workplace so that the employee can easily get in and move about, etc.
If any type of accommodation is too expensive or difficult for the employer, he will not be obliged to make the adjustment. Whether or not the accommodation is reasonable enough for an employer is decided by taking into account the expenses involved compared to the organization's nature, size, and resources.
If the accommodation costs are too much to bear for the employer, the disabled employee may be asked to pay for the accommodation or a portion of the accommodation costs. The employer may not make up for the accommodation costs incurred by lowering the employee's salary.
What Should You Do to Complain?
If you feel you are being discriminated against, point it out to your employer. It is possible you were denied a promotion because your employer thought you wouldn't be able to perform specific tasks. By showing your employer how a reasonable accommodation such as installing a ramp for wheelchairs or Go-Go travel mobility scooters can allow you to complete your tasks, he might change his mind.
If despite your explanation, your employer doesn't budge, you can file a complaint with the company. This will bring your problem to the notice of the higher management and human resources department. This will also help your case if you decide to take legal action, should you receive no help from the organization at all.
If your problems aren't addressed to your satisfaction, you can get in touch with your state’s anti-discrimination agency or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a discrimination charge. If you reside in a state that has no disability discrimination law, you will have to file a charge within 180 days of the discriminatory action taken against you by your employer. In states having their own laws against disability discrimination, the time limit is 300 days.
The agency will process the charge and may ask the employer to respond to the charge. An investigation may be conducted and the agency may offer to settle the case or mediate between you and your employer. The agency may or may not find a violation of the law. In either case, you will receive a right-to-sue letter after which you can file a lawsuit against your employer if you wish to.
A disability can bring with it a lot of pain and grief. But be assured that there are laws in place to protect you from discrimination and give you the good that you rightfully deserve.