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Refusing to help workers with disabilities can be discrimination

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination

Some employees face overt workplace discrimination based on their medical conditions. Supervisors or coworkers might make distasteful jokes at their expense. They might receive a job offer, only to have the company retract the offer when they show up for training with a wheelchair or other assistive technology.

Those enduring a hostile work environment or denied fair employment opportunities because of a disabling medical condition may have grounds for a disability discrimination claim against their employers. However, workplace discrimination is often less obvious and frequently instead relates to employers failing to do what the law requires for employees with disabling medical conditions. A refusal to provide reasonable accommodations when a worker has a documented health issue could lead to claims of disability discrimination.

What does the law require?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) imposes requirements on employers with 15 or more employees. Companies should not consider health conditions when deciding to hire an employee if they are capable of performing job tasks with reasonable accommodations. If an employee needs a ramp to access facilities, accessible bathrooms, an alternative work schedule or assistive technology, then the employer generally needs to make an effort to support them. Unfortunately, many businesses outright reject requests for reasonable accommodations.

The refusal to provide basic forms of support to a worker with a disabling medical condition could limit that employee’s ability to obtain or retain a job. Companies denying the request of a worker for certain accommodations typically need evidence to prove that the request would have caused an undue hardship to justify that determination.

Many companies count on workers not knowing their rights when they refuse accommodation requests supported by documentation from medical professionals. Businesses may even sometimes take retaliatory actions against workers who request accommodations. The worker may face negative performance reviews or attempts to discipline them for issues directly related to their health challenges.

An employee in need of disability accommodations may need to review company policies and request written recommendations from their physician. They may want to keep records of their communications with their employer so that they can prove they experienced discrimination when they requested accommodations.

Filing a disability discrimination lawsuit could lead to someone receiving the accommodations they need, regaining their job after a termination or acquiring financial compensation for the economic impact of an employer’s discriminatory practices. Those who understand how the ADA and other laws protect them may feel braver about fighting disability discrimination in the workplace.