Disability Discrimination


In 2013, the employment rate for disabled citizens was 34.5 percent as compared to 76.8 percent for people without disabilities. The low employment rate generates enough concern on its own but when coupled with the issue of disability discrimination, it becomes quite clear why people need protection.

Fortunately, there are legal remedies available if you face workplace discrimination, particularly in Chicago, based on your disability. In each cause of action, there are two steps. First, to establish whether you are disabled and fall under the protection required under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Second, whether your employer violated those laws. Here is the general analysis your employment attorney considers while handling your claim.

Definition of Disability

Most claims fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Provisions are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the ADA instructs that the definition of disability is to be interpreted broadly. People are generally considered disabled if they:

* Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits their major life activities;

* Can show a medical record of that impairment; and

* Are generally regarded as having the impairment.

The definition even includes disabilities that are intermittent. For example, if you are in remission from depression for a number of years and later, it comes back to present limiting symptoms, the condition will still be considered a disability. Also, the ADA expanded to include reading, bending, and communication along with walking and seeing as “major life activities.”

Basically, if an illness or condition presents barriers in your life, it is likely that you qualify as disabled under the ADA and other employment protection laws. Once that is established, legal analysis shifts to seeing if your employer behaved in a discriminating manner.

Prohibited Actions By Employers

Causes of action for disability discrimination arise from duties employers owe to their employees. In general, employers are required to provide a non-hostile workplace where disabled employees are free from harassment or substantial barriers. Employers are in particular prohibited from:

* Discriminating on the basis of mental or physical disability in employment elements including recruitment, termination, job assignments, promotions, pay and benefits, lay-offs, and other employee-related activities;

* Harassing employees due to their disabilities;

* Maintaining physical barriers that prevent the use of mobility devices, e.g. not providing accessible restrooms or not leaving room to maneuver wheelchairs through cubicle environments; and

* Failing to provide reasonable accommodations for employees to perform work.

Lawsuits most frequently arise from accommodation claims. For example, an individual who uses a wheelchair may need a desk adjusted so there is room for that device. People with depression or anxiety may require accommodation to work from home when their symptoms act up. Failure to address these requests is considered discrimination.

Accommodation is not limited to the employment period; even pre-employment procedures must adjust to people with disabilities. Never assume that just because you were not hired that protection no longer applies to your situation. If you are not offered an accommodation during the hiring process or you find the interview focuses heavily on possible disabilities, it is likely that you have a claim.

Suspect Discrimination? Your Next Steps

Disability discrimination is a broad area of the law and each matter is handled on a case-by-case basis. These cases are very unique to one another and since disabilities take many different forms, your particular facts must be reviewed carefully.

If you face harassment, a lack of accommodation or undue hardship while employed, you need to consult with an employment law attorney. Your claim may be obvious, like a workplace that is not wheelchair accessible. However, your claim could also involve more subtleties, such as suspecting you were demoted due to a disability or notice your non-disabled colleagues receive more opportunities for promotion.

Even if you just suspect discrimination, scheduling a consultation with Wood Law Office, LLC is a good precaution that could mean securing the compensation you are entitled to for facing discrimination. Contact us at (866) 629-4679 if you suspect disability discrimination.