Discrimination on the Basis of Disability at the Workplace

Disability discrimination deals with discrimination of a qualified disabled person on the basis of his disability in cases arising out of employment. A qualified disabled person is one who can do the essential functions of a certain job with or without reasonable accommodation. These people are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. In fact, the ADA protects qualified disabled people from various types of discrimination. However, this does not include disabilities or inabilities that are temporary or transitory in nature. 


It must be noted that while the ADA is for the private sector employees and applicants, it is the Rehabilitation Act that protects the Federal employees and applicants. However, the protections are almost the same.


Discrimination occurs when an employer, covered by the ADA, treats an employee, who is a qualified disabled individual, unfavorably because of his disability.


Disability discrimination can also come into play if an ADA treats an employee or an applicant less favorably because of his history of disability (such as cancer, which is in remission or under control) or because the employee has a mental or physical incapacity that is neither transitory nor permanent (such as those lasting for six months or less).


In terms of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, an employer can provide reasonable accommodation to a job applicant or an employee suffering from a disability, unless this would precipitate too much difficulty for him. 


The law also protects those from discrimination who have a relative with a disability. This means that the employer cannot discriminate against a woman because her husband is disabled.


Disability Discrimination & Work Situations

Whether it is the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act, it forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment which may include hiring, payment, firing, promotions, job assignments, training, layoff, fringe benefits, etc.


Disability Discrimination & Harassment

In terms of these laws, it is illegal to harass an employee or an applicant because he or she is a qualified disabled or had some kind of disability in the past, or is considered to have a mental or physical disability that can’t be described as momentary (it may last for last six months or less).


Harassment may involve offensive remarks about disability, although the law doesn’t specifically prohibit teasing and casual comments. However, even offhand comments hurled at the person frequently are illegal since it creates a hostile work environment and may result in adverse employment decisions like the victim being demoted or fired.


The person accused of harassment can be a supervisor of the victim, a supervisor from a different department or area, a co-worker, or even a customer.


Reasonable Accommodation

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to the applicant or employee unless that would significantly enhance expenses for the employer or cause extreme difficulty in daily operations.


Reasonable accommodation can be made by changing the work environment or the way things are done so that the person with a disability can perform his or her duty, apply for a job, or enjoy the benefits of employment. 



The Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act both provide adequate protection from discrimination in employment or job application because of disability. Yet, it is the ability and desire of the employer to reasonably accommodate the candidate that matters in enforcing this rule.


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