Understanding Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

 “It’s not our disabilities, it’s our abilities that count.”

–Chris Burke

If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, there are many things to consider, such as how you’ll treat your hearing loss, new considerations for your daily routine and even what you may need to do to optimize your routine at work.

It’s also essential to understand disability discrimination in the workplace.

What is disability discrimination?

According to the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This may include communication, movement, vision, mental health, learning and even hearing. It is unlawful to discriminate against (treat unfavorably) those with a disability and those who are associated with a person with a disability.

Examples of disability discrimination in the workplace may include:

  • Asking questions about medical history or disability in an interview
  • Declining to offer a job to a qualified applicant based on a disability
  • Requiring a pre-employment medical exam before an offer of employment
  • Firing an employee, regardless of job performance, because of a disability
  • Failing to promote a qualified employee all because of a disability
  • Failing to provide reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability
  • Paying lower wages to an employee with a disability than other employees in the same job
  • Harassment such as offensive comments, poor work assignments and a negative environment because of a disability

Unfortunately, just because it is against the law, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Just ask the Washington Post, who took a closer look at the over 1 million discrimination cases filed over the last several years. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of disability discrimination and what to do if you’ve been affected by it in the workplace.

What to do about disability discrimination?

If you believe you or someone you know is facing disability discrimination in the workplace, there are steps you can take to stop it. Most experts recommend:

  • Making your employer aware of the situation and your feelings – They may not be aware of the situation, or they may need to know that you will not accept the situation. Either way, making them aware of it is the first step.
  • Keeping a record of incidents, actions, etc. that may be harassing or supporting discrimination – This may be incident reports filed with HR, copies of emails, pictures or even a diary with notes on what happened and when it occurred to go with any other documentation.
  • Reviewing your companies anti-discrimination policy – What specifics are outlined, and how is your employer following the policy?
  • Contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – This is often a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit and may need to be done within a specific timeframe.
  • Seeking legal assistance – Organizations specializing in disability discrimination and law firms can help guide you in the next steps.

Anyone has a right to work regardless of disability. Don’t let discrimination stand in your way.

Accommodations for hearing loss and other disabilities

Whether you have hearing loss, vision loss, rely on a wheelchair or another disability, it does not define you or the employee that you can be. It’s important for employers and employees to remember that everyone brings invaluable knowledge, experience, talent and insight to the table, regardless of disability or perceived disability. With some accommodations such as assistive listening devices, alternative notification systems, wheelchair ramps and similar, we can all benefit.


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