How does the employment law protect those with disabilities?

Millions of Americans live with disabilities. These conditions can not only make it difficult to carry out the physical tasks of day-to-day life, but they can also leave an individual on unsteady financial footing. For some of these individuals, Social Security disability benefits may be an option. For others, though, they may either not qualify for SSD benefits, or they may want to do everything they can to remain in the workforce. For these disabled individuals, finding work can be a challenge. Not because they don’t qualify for the jobs they seek, but, rather, because employers improperly discriminate against them based on their medical condition.

The good news is that the federal government has implemented a number of laws and regulations to help protect workers from employment discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of one’s disability. In short, under the law no individual can be passed over for a job, demoted, harassed, or given less pay simply because they have a disability. Also, those with disabilities must be provided with reasonable accommodations from their employer in order to help the worker complete their job.

So, which medical conditions are protected under these laws? Cancer, HIV, diabetes, blindness, and even mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, and even schizophrenia are protected. However, certain disabilities that are so severe that they create a hardship on an employer or that substantially limit a worker’s ability to perform their job may not be protected.

This area of the law sees its fair share of gray areas that allow employers to dispute claims of workplace discrimination. Since the law isn’t 100 percent black and white, those who feel as if they have been wronged by their employer should be sure to craft the best legal arguments they can to support their position. After all, that is exactly what the employer will be doing on their end.

Source: US Department of Labor, “Disability Rights,” accessed on April 16, 2017

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