Equality for All: Understanding Disability Discrimination in the Workplace in 2019

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Know Your Rights: Understanding Disability Discrimination in 2019

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, 19.1 percent of disabled people were employed. The type of jobs people with disabilities hold will vary depending on their capabilities. 

Many disabled people work part-time or seasonal work with no benefits. But others work full-time and continue to do so until retirement. 

Unfortunately, disability discrimination in the workplace is a valid concern.

According to the Washington Post, out of  252,599 closed cases of medical or disability discrimination, 21 percent received relief, and 2 percent had a discrimination finding.

If you or someone you know is disabled, learning the types of workplace disability discrimination might be beneficial.

Continue reading to learn more.

What is Disability?

A disability is a physical or mental condition that restricts activities, movements, and senses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), typical examples of disabilities include:

  • Communicating
  • Hearing
  • Learning
  • Mental health
  • Movement
  • Social relationships
  • Thinking
  • Vision

The World Health Organization (WHO) states disability has "three dimensions," impairment, activity limitation, and participation restrictions. 

Impairment of the body might include loss of memory or vision. Activity limitation could be difficulty hearing, seeing, or walking. Participation restrictions might consist of problems working, social activities, and getting health care. 

Causes of Disability 

Some people are born with a disability. Other people might develop a disability later in life due to a traumatic event.

Causes of disability include birth defects, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and a car crash. But a disability may appear due to a developmental issue like Down Syndrome or Autism.

What is Disability Discrimination?

Disability Discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act poorly because of the disability, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

Common Examples of Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination happens in many forms in different settings. The workplace is one of the leading locations for disability discrimination to occur. 

Workplace disability discrimination comes in the form of harassment, lack of reasonable accommodation, inappropriate interview, and applications, and the use of pre-employment medical exams.


Starting a job is one of the best experiences of your life. It means you get to earn money and become independent. But some people who work do so part-time due to restrictions caused by impairments.

A disabled person should be able to gain employment if he or she can perform the job tasks. But many times, disability discrimination plays a role before the job begins.

Workplace disability discrimination takes on different appearances. It could happen during hiring, termination, wages, assignments, training, and promotions.

A boss shouldn't treat a worker different because of a past or current condition like cancer, pregnancy, or hearing impairment.


Harassment is a serious act. An employer can't harass an applicant or worker because of a disability, or the suspicion that the disability won't go away within six months or less.

Employers can harass a worker with offensive comments about the disability. The frequency and severity of the harassment could create a hostile work environment. It might result in the firing or demotion of an employee, according to the EEOC.

But harassment can come from a peer in the employee's department or another part of the company. If a disabled person feels like he or she is a harassment victim, then a complaint should be filed. The employee may want to speak with an attorney too.

Reasonable Accommodation

Employers must provide reasonable accommodation for employees with a disability. The accommodations are at the expense of the employer. 

Accommodations for disable employees allow them to apply for a position, perform their job tasks, or enjoy the advantages of employment. 

An example is making a building wheelchair accessible and having readers and interpreters for blind and deaf workers. More examples include extra bathroom breaks or a special chair.

The only exception for an employer to not offer reasonable accommodation is when doing so would create a financial hardship. 

Interview and Application Questions

Laws protect workers from answering questions about medical questions and identifying as disabled. A potential employer can't ask someone to take a medical exam without an offer of employment. An interviewer can't ask if a person is disabled. 

An interviewer could ask about how well the person could complete the tasks. A boss has the right to know if someone can complete their daily assignments. The questions 

Pre-employment Medical Exams

Having to complete a physical before starting a new job is usually a great first step to a new career. But an employer can't ask an applicant to complete an exam before offering the job.

In some cases, a company might want to discriminate against a disabled applicant by having them visit the doctor and then making their decision. This practice is against the law.

An official offer of employment is necessary for someone to complete a physical. After a company chooses to hire someone, a medical exam is fine and should be done. Depending on the job, a physical exam will determine if the person is well enough to do it.

Fight For Your Rights 

Disability discrimination affects people around the world. It can happen in the workplace or a social setting. Workplace disability discrimination can keep a person from earning money and being independent.

If you know someone facing workplace disability discrimination, then suggest they seek help. No one deserves to be mistreatment, especially for something out of their control. To learn more helpful job tips, please review our website