What constitutes discrimination varies from situation to situation. Generally, it involves someone in a position of authority factoring in protected characteristics when making decisions. Disability discrimination at work, in particular, involves a company treating a worker differently because of a disabling medical condition.
When people think of discrimination, they often think of hostile work environments where coworkers treat one person very poorly and make them feel alienated and unsafe. Others think of scenarios where an employer obviously favors some workers over others. Disability discrimination is in some ways broader than other forms of discrimination because of the protections extended under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What kind of employer behavior constitutes disability discrimination?
Refusing to hire or promote workers with disabilities
Someone’s medical conditions should not impact their job opportunities as long as they can fulfill the job tasks with reasonable accommodations. If a company expressed interest in offering you a position and then stopped responding to your messages after you showed up to an in-person interview with crutches, you may begin to suspect that your visible disability was the reason that they did not hire you.
On the other hand, if you started a job, performed it well and then requested accommodations from the company as you started to notice your limitations, you might suspect discrimination if they refuse to promote you or quickly find a reason to let you go. Especially if there are no other workers with disabilities at the company, you may start to suspect that discrimination related to your medical condition was the cause for the company’s decision.
Refusing to accommodate you
A company doesn’t have to fire you to discriminate against you. They might insist that they don’t need to give you breaks to rest an injured body part or to provide assistive technology that would help you more easily perform your job.
From special software to help the visually impaired use point-of-sale systems to wheelchair ramps, there are countless workplace accommodations that can help those with disabling medical conditions maintain gainful employment. When companies refuse to provide those accommodations or back out after offering those accommodations, their actions may constitute discrimination.
The more documentation you have of how your medical condition affects your job performance and how the company treated you, the easier it may be for you to prove that disability discrimination affected your employment. Fighting back against disability discrimination can compensate you for your losses and prompt the company to change its practices as well.