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Disability discrimination affects employees, employers

by | Oct 24, 2017 | Firm News, workplace discrimination |

Some Pennsylvania employees who have disabilities may be facing discrimination in the workplace. According to a study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation of white-collar, college-educated, full-time employees, almost one-third of workers have a disability under the expanded federal definition. However, few identify themselves as such to their employers. For almost two-thirds of them, the disability is invisible.

Employees may hesitate to identify themselves as having disabilities because of past experiences with bias or because of fear of bias. Around one-third reported having experienced workplace discrimination, and among those with visible disabilities, the number rose to 44 percent. Examples of the types of discrimination faced included assumptions that people with disabilities would work too slowly or be unable to do certain tasks.

Fewer than 40 percent of people said they informed their managers about their disability, and just over half that said they told their company’s human resources department. Employers lose out as well when employees fear bias because they may not have the opportunity to make reasonable accommodations that would make the employee more productive. For example, an employee who suffers from migraines might struggle with the condition and worry about discrimination if the employer is informed. However, this might be a problem an employer could easily solve by providing a different type of lighting.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are supposed to offer a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. Some employers may refuse, and this could constitute a kind of disability discrimination. An employee might also face discrimination by being denied a promotion because of a disability. Harassment in the workplace due to a disability is another possibility. In all of these cases, the employee may want to talk to an attorney about a strategy in addition to reporting the harassment or discrimination through workplace channels.