Disability and Discrimination by the EEOC





Disability Discrimination


Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or
other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities
Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended,
treats a qualified individual with a disability who is
an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a
disability.


Disability discrimination also occurs when a

covered employer or other entity
treats an applicant
or employee less favorably because she has a history of
a disability (such as cancer that is controlled or in
remission) or because she is believed to have a physical
or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or
expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if
she does not have such an impairment).


The law requires an employer to provide reasonable
accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a
disability, unless doing so would cause significant
difficulty or expense for the employer ("undue
hardship").


The law also protects people from discrimination
based on their relationship with a person with a
disability (even if they do not themselves have a
disability). For example, it is illegal to discriminate
against an employee because her husband has a
disability.


Note: Federal employees and applicants are
covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, instead of
the Americans with Disabilities Act. The protections are
mostly the same.


Disability Discrimination & Work Situations


The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any
aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job
assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe
benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.


Disability Discrimination & Harassment


It is illegal to harass an applicant or employee
because he has a disability, had a disability in the
past, or is believed to have a physical or mental
impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected
to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does
not have such an impairment).


Harassment can include, for example, offensive
remarks about a person's disability. Although the law
doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or
isolated incidents that aren't very serious, harassment
is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it
creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when
it results in an adverse employment decision (such as
the victim being fired or demoted).


The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a
supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who
is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or
customer.


Disability Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation


The law requires an employer to provide reasonable
accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a
disability, unless doing so would cause significant
difficulty or expense for the employer.


A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work
environment (or in the way things are usually done) to
help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform
the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and
privileges of employment.


Reasonable accommodation might include, for example,
making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users or
providing a reader or interpreter for someone who is
blind or hearing impaired.


While the federal anti-discrimination laws don't
require an employer to accommodate an employee who must
care for a disabled family member, the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may require an employer to take
such steps. The Department of Labor enforces the FMLA.
For more information, call: 1-866-487-9243.


Disability Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation
& Undue Hardship


An employer doesn't have to provide an accommodation
if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.


Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be
too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of
the employer's size, financial resources, and the needs
of the business. An employer may not refuse to provide
an accommodation just because it involves some cost. An
employer does not have to provide the exact
accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If
more than one accommodation works, the employer may
choose which one to provide.


Definition Of Disability


Not everyone with a medical condition is protected by
the law. In order to be protected, a person must be
qualified for the job and have a disability as defined
by the law.


A person can show that he or she has a disability in
one of three ways:



  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a
    physical or mental condition that substantially
    limits a major life activity (such as walking,
    talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).

  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a
    history of a disability (such as cancer that is in
    remission).

  • A person may be disabled if he is believed to
    have a physical or mental impairment that is not
    transitory (lasting or expected to last six months
    or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an
    impairment).

Disability & Medical Exams During Employment
Application & Interview Stage

The law places strict limits on employers when it
comes to asking job applicants to answer medical
questions, take a medical exam, or identify a
disability.

For example, an employer may not ask a job applicant
to answer medical questions or take a medical exam
before extending a job offer. An employer also may not
ask job applicants if they have a disability (or about
the nature of an obvious disability). An employer may
ask job applicants whether they can perform the job and
how they would perform the job, with or without a
reasonable accommodation.

Disability & Medical Exams After A Job Offer For
Employment

After a job is offered to an applicant, the law
allows an employer to condition the job offer on the
applicant answering certain medical questions or
successfully passing a medical exam, but only if all new
employees in the same type of job have to answer the
questions or take the exam.

Disability & Medical Exams For Persons Who Have
Started Working As Employees

Once a person is hired and has started work, an
employer generally can only ask medical questions or
require a medical exam if the employer needs medical
documentation to support an employee's request for an
accommodation or if the employer believes that an
employee is not able to perform a job successfully or
safely because of a medical condition.

The law also requires that employers keep all medical
records and information confidential and in separate
medical files.

Available Resources

In addition to a variety of

formal guidance documents
, EEOC has developed a wide
range of fact sheets, question & answer documents, and
other publications to help employees and employers
understand the complex issues surrounding disability
discrimination.

The ADA Amendments Act

The Questions and Answers Series

Mediation and the ADA