Disability and Discrimination by the EEOC

Human
Rights 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.

NEW 5/1/13 - The
Mental Health Provider’s Role in a Client’s Request for a Reasonable
Accommodation at Work

Your
Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability

Job
Applicants and the ADA

Understanding
Your Employment Rights Under the ADA: A Guide for Veterans

Questions
and Answers: Promoting Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the
Federal Workforce

The
Family and Medical Leave Act, the ADA, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964

The
ADA: A Primer for Small Business

Your
Responsibilities as an Employer

Small
Employers and Reasonable Accommodation

Work At
Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation

Applying Performance
And Conduct Standards To Employees With Disabilities

Obtaining
and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation
Procedures

Veterans
and the ADA: A Guide for Employers

Pandemic
Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Employer
Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

Reasonable
Accommodations for Attorneys with Disabilities

How
to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and
Other Food Service Employers

Final
Report on Best Practices For the Employment of People with Disabilities In
State Government

ABCs of
Schedule A Documents

The ADA Amendments Act

Final
Regulations Implementing the ADAAA

Questions and
Answers on the Final Rule Implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Questions
and Answers for Small Businesses: The Final Rule Implementing the ADA
Amendments Act of 2008

Fact Sheet on
the EEOC’s Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA

The Questions and Answers Series

Health Care Workers
and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Deafness
and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities
Act

Blindness
and Vision Impairments in the Workplace and the ADA

The
Americans with Disabilities Act’s Association Provision

Diabetes
in the Workplace and the ADA

Epilepsy
in the Workplace and the ADA

Persons
with Intellectual Disabilities in the Workplace and the ADA

Cancer
in the Workplace and the ADA

The
Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience
Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking

Mediation and the ADA

Questions and
Answers for Mediation Providers: Mediation and the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA)

Questions and Answers
for Parties to Mediation: Mediation and the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA)