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Disabilities in the Workplace: Your Employment Rights
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing these regulations.
As a veteran, the job hunt can seem daunting.
The transition from school to work life is difficult. Remember that you're an American citizen with certain unalienable rights. If you're a disabled person, it's important to know these rights when seeking employment.
We're examining your rights as an individual with disabilities in the workplace. The ADA goes beyond employment, but we'll focus on your rights as an employee below.
According to the ADA, a disability is any physical or mental impairment that hinders any major life activities. The impairment must be substantial.
The ADA also protects any individual whose employer believes he or she has a substantial impairment. In this case, a candidate or employee doesn't have to prove the disability exists.
A substantial impairment is anything that majorly impacts sight, hearing, speech, breathing, performing manual tasks, and more.
You must still be able to perform essential job duties with or without reasonable accommodations. If you meet the specified requirements for employment, an employer cannot refuse employment.
Types of Employers
In general, all employers may not discriminate against employees with disabilities. This includes private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor management committees, and labor organizations.
The EEOC protects people with disabilities regarding all employers with 15 or more employees.
The EEOC, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Labor coordinate the enforcement of these laws.
The ADA prohibits discrimination in the following categories:
- Job assignments
- Lay off
You have a legal right to assert your rights if you feel they are being infringed upon by an employer.
What About Drug Users?
Illegal drug users are not protected. Your employer is legally allowed to perform drug tests as part of the hiring process.
Even if you are in a rehabilitation program, an employer may still deny you employment.
What Does Reasonable Accommodation Mean?
Under the ADA, you're entitled to reasonable accommodations if you have a disability. These are accommodations made to help an individual perform essential job duties.
These can include modified or provided equipment, a more accessible workplace, modified work schedules, interpreters, restructuring of the position, or position reassignment.
An employer does not have to provide accommodations that would create undue hardship for the business. This would be anything that would cause excessive difficulty or expense.
Discrimination: Disabilities in the Workplace
Not all employers act with honesty and integrity when making decisions. You may come across some situations in which you're discriminated against.
An employer is not allowed to explicitly ask if you have a disability or about its nature. But, an employer can ask you if you can perform the job duties with or without reasonable accommodation. They may ask you to show how.
It's unlawful to single out any candidates for a position to undergo a medical examination based on a disability. All candidates for the same position must undergo the same examination.
If you do undergo a medical examination, the results can only get used to deny employment if they're related to the specific position.
Employers may perform voluntary medical examinations as part of any health and wellness program. This information must be confidential. It's usually used in workers' compensation claims.
What Do I Do if I'm Discriminated Against?
If you experience discrimination because of a disability, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. File your complaint within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.
If your state provides relief for such cases, you may have up to 300 days to file a complaint. Check your local and state laws.
Compensatory damages will be paid to you. Punitive damages are usually directed at punishing an employer.
Limits on damages will depend on the size of the employer.
Before taking any legal action, make sure to file a complaint with the EEOC. They will help you decide the best action to take.
With any legal action, you may benefit from hiring an attorney. They can provide professional legal counsel, especially if your case moves forward to litigation.
Back Into the Civilian Workforce
If you recently got out of the military or are just getting back into the workforce, you may find that it is more difficult than you expect.
Remember that you are not alone and that you're entitled to your rights.
Before you apply for a job with an employer, do a bit of research. Do they stand by your values? Do they hire disabled veterans?
Some companies are more vet-friendly than others. It may be worth seeking out these employers. It may make the transition much easier.
Visit a job board that specializes in jobs for veterans.
You may find that you don't want to work for someone who would discriminate against you.
If you're a qualified, hard-working employee, you should have no problem finding employment. If you do face discrimination, don't be afraid to assert your rights.
Get Into It
Now that you're familiar with the regulations set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can feel more comfortable on your job hunt.
Although it may be intimidating, you're protected, like any other citizen.
Don't be afraid to assert your rights as an individual with disabilities in the workplace. Nobody likes to file a lawsuit, but you can if the treatment you receive is exceptionally malicious.
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