Disability discrimination occurs when an entity under the scope of the American Disability Act (ADA) , treats a person less favorably than others because of their disability. Discrimination of this kind also occurs if unfavorable treatment is also directed to someone who has a relationship with a person with a disability. An example of this would be denying a husband a job because he has a wife with cerebral palsy.
A disability as defined by the ADA is a physical or mental impairment that significantly hinders an individual’s major life activities, record or history of said impairment, or the belief by other individuals that a person has those impairments. Someone who has an illness that is expected to last 6 months or less, would not be considered disabled.
One of the most common areas where disability discrimination comes up is in the workforce. For a practice to be discriminatory, an individual must be otherwise qualified for the applicable position. Disability discrimination can occur during the hiring process, at the start of employment or even after one has been with a company for a while. During the actual course of employment it can occur when it comes to promotions, getting approved for time off and/or retirement. Employers from both the private and public sector, with companies of 15 or more employees are required to follow the rules under Title I of the ADA.
Here are some practices that can be considered discriminatory:
- Request that you take an aptitude or a medical test- This will not be seen as discriminatory if everyone else in the company has to take the same test. If you are ‘singled out’ to take an exam, that is when it is an issue
- Ask about a disability, or if someone close to you has a disability- An employer is only allowed to ask you about a disability if they’re doing so to better meet any accommodations you may need. On many applications you may also see questions regarding veteran status and any associated disabilities- this is an exception as it is required by federal law. An employer generally should not be asking you about the nature of your disability or the duration of your disability.
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations- If you need accommodations, your employer will need to know about your disability. Otherwise, how can they address your request? Individuals need to be qualified for the position. The employer does not need to provide the accommodation if it will result with the employer experiencing “undue hardship.”