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Understanding workplace disability discrimination

If you are a disabled Florida resident, you likely have concerns about the type(s) of accommodation(s) your employer or a prospective employer needs to make for you. You likely also know that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against you because of your disability.

What you may not realize, however, is that you must qualify for ADA protection. Not only must you possess the necessary qualifications to do your current job or one for which you would like to apply, you also must meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Your disability must significantly impair your sight, hearing, mobility, speech or your ability to learn.
  • Your employer or prospective employer must believe that you have a permanent disability, whether or not you actually have the disability (s)he believes you have.
  • Your disability must have a history; for instance, maybe you have cancer, but it currently is in remission.

Prospective employer prohibitions

When you apply for a job, the employer cannot ask you any medical questions during your first interview. Nor can (s)he ask you whether or not you have a disability or to describe or define it if you do. (S)he can, however, ask you if you can perform the job you are applying for, with or without accommodations.

Assuming (s)he offers you the job, then (s)he can not only ask you medical questions, (s)he can also condition his or her job offer on the answers you give. Additionally, (s)he can insist that you pass a medical examination in order to get the job, but only if all applicants for this job must likewise do so.

Reasonable accommodation

Bear in mind that the ADA does not require all employers to provide you and other disabled workers with accommodations under all circumstances. It only requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. While no overall definition exists for what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, smaller employers often do not have to provide the accommodation(s) you require if doing so would cause them unreasonable hardship, such as significant expense.

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