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Disabilities in the Workforce: Knowing your rights as a person with a disability.

Navigating the world with a disability can be quite challenging. Research shows 55.8% of workers in the United States have a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to eliminate some of those challenges by making society more accessible. Employment protection is included in these efforts. Title I of the ADA requires employers to accommodate employees with disabilities and prohibits discriminatory actions in the workplace.

You may be familiar with the term “equal opportunity employer”, or statements that ensure no discrimination based on age, sex, gender, race, or disibility takes place during the hiring process. Companies use these disclaimers to show they are in accordance with the ADA. These are just the first foundational steps to ensure an inclusive environment, but employers' responsibilities do not stop there.

Employers have responsibilities they must uphold for their employees with disabilities. These responsibilities include making reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities by restructuring job tasks, acquiring or modifying equipment, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies, and making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.These are just a few of the accommodations companies must provide in order to remain inclusive.

It is important that employers uphold fair and equitable work environments. There are still cases of discrimination in workplaces throughout the United States. Over the past year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) resolved 70,804 charges of workplace discrimination in which 36.1% of the cases were disability discrimination.

It is important to know your rights as a person with a disability and even more important to know the steps to lawfully address discrimination if or when it occurs in the workplace.

Below is a reference chart of your rights, and what to do ir or when you feel they are being violated as an employee with disabilities:

What Are My Rights? As A Person With Disabilities, I Am Being Discriminated Against. What Should I Do?

You cannot be denied employment, harassed, demoted, fired, paid less, or treated poorly because you have a disability, or have a history of a disability, or because your employer regards you as having a mental or physical impairment that is permanent.

If you are an employee with a disability you can request, and the employer must provide, “reasonable accommodation” to allow you to perform your job. Reasonable accommodation must be provided to you by your employer unless doing so would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense.

Similarly, if you are a job applicant with a disability, the employer must provide reasonable accommodation during the application process to allow you to apply and be considered for the job. Again, reasonable accommodation must be provided unless it would be too difficult or too expensive to do so. You can file a complaint with OFCCP. You do not need to know with certainty that your employer is a federal contractor or subcontractor in order to file a complaint. You may file a discrimination complaint by:

  • Completing and submitting a form online through Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’s (OFCCP) Web site; or

  • Completing a form in person at an OFCCP office; or

  • Mailing, e-mailing, or faxing a completed form to the OFCCP regional office that covers the location where the alleged discrimination occurred. The form is available online at ofccp/regs/compliance/pdf/pdfstart.htm and in paper format at all OFCCP offices. To find the office nearest to where you live, visit the online listing of OFCCP offices at: ofnation2.htm. You must remember to sign your completed complaint form. If you fail to do so, OFCCP will still take your complaint but an OFCCP investigator will ask you to sign the form during a follow-up interview. Complaints alleging discrimination based disability must be filed within 300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended for good cause.

Source: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs U.S. Department of Labor

Remember, even with a disability, you are a valuable asset to a company. Provisions and accommodations must be made in order for you to deliver your best work in a safe and equitable way. Companies need you, and you need proper treatment in return. The needs of employees with disabilities matter too!

Read more about CJE’s Business Development Services here. Schedule a Diversity & Culture Workspace Training for your organization here.

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