What Is Disability Discrimination in the Workplace?
Although the phrase “disability discrimination” immediately conjures up images in a person’s mind of verbal harassment at work, disability discrimination is often considerably more subtle. Disability cases involving verbal harassment have certainly occurred—and have been prosecuted in court—but instances of disability discrimination are often so subtle that many people don’t even notice they happened. For example, disability discrimination can occur before applicants even walk through the door for an interview. Perhaps a hiring manager notices a detail on your application that indicates you are disabled—and promptly decides to click on the next resume. Or maybe prospective employers look you up on social media and decide to forego an interview once they see that you are disabled.
Other instances of disability discrimination occur in the workplace when employees are passed up for projects or promotions due to their disabilities. In some workplaces, an employee may even be asked to take a physical exam, at which point the disability is discovered. Unfortunately, employers can be incredibly sneaky with their disability discrimination. For instance, you may notice that you no longer have access to certain parts of the building due to your disability, preventing you from participating in certain activities that may affect your advancement at the company.
Federal and state laws are in place to protect workers, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has only been in effect for less than 30 years. Even if a company has received information about the ADA, some employers may not realize that the actions they are taking are against federal law. They may be operating with an outdated business model that doesn’t consider the ADA, but this does not exempt such businesses from the law. The ADA is the law, and companies must comply with it without exception.