How to Stop Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

It’s unfortunate that the workplace can be an avenue for all sorts of discrimination. Millions of employees still deal with offensive remarks, unfair labor practices, and even physical abuse from their superiors and colleagues. While the collective effort may have shed light on these issues, there’s no ignoring the fact that we still have a lot of ground to cover.


Apart from age, gender, and religious discrimination, people with disabilities can also be victims of unfair treatment. Despite being qualified and cleared for a job, some employees in this group aren’t given adequate support by their organizations and easily subject to prejudice. 

If you feel that your workplace is no longer a safe space, then it’s time to do something about it and take immediate action. The guide we’ve prepared will teach you how to protect yourself from disability discrimination and how employers can stop it from happening. 


What is disability discrimination?

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, disability discrimination refers to the unfavorable treatment of individuals with physical or mental conditions. In the industrial setting, it is illegal for an employer to factor in an employee’s disability when it comes to training opportunities, performance appraisals, and benefits.

One typical example is how a manager doesn’t compensate an employee fairly because of his long medical history. There are also cases wherein employers are quick to assume that a staff member is impaired even though the results of their checkup say otherwise.

No matter the kind of discrimination, offenders must be dealt with since they can pose a threat to one’s well-being and the company’s stability. In the United States, there are different laws that ensure the favorable treatment of disabled employees. 


1. American With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that strictly prohibits disability discrimination in all facets of life. In the industrial setting, a violation occurs when an employer or staff member manipulates a disabled employee’s contract, makes unjust decisions based on a colleague’s condition, or excludes one socially from other members of their organization.

The ADA is highly essential for disabled staff since it upholds their rights as individuals and workers. The law requires employers to provide the necessary support for an employee, such as making the workplace wheelchair friendly or giving them adequate holiday breaks. It also protects people who are closely related to the person with a disability.


2. Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

Some states have also taken preventive measures against disability discrimination. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act is one notable regulation that both public and private employers must adhere to. In line with the ADA, the FEHA provides additional protection for disabled employees by penalizing offenders.


Disability Discrimination: By the Numbers


  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities went up from 6.1% in September 2018 to 7% in December 2019. While different factors contribute to this increase, this figure suggests that unemployment rates for disabled individuals are on the rise.
  • In 2019, research shows that 19.3% of persons with disabilities were unemployed. To give a direct comparison, the employment-population ratio for people with no disabilities is around 66.3%.
  • An article by the Washington Post disclosed that more than 1 million employment discrimination cases had been filed with the government since 2010. Out of 252,599 closed cases of medical or disability discrimination, only 21% received relief.  
  • Among all of the states, Arizona was able to produce the most number of job opportunities for disabled individuals in 2018. To be more specific, data shows that over 17,000 Arizonans were employed.
  • In 2018, only 37.6% of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18–64 had a job. In contrast, 77.2% of people without disabilities were employed. This significant difference suggests that disability is a factor in an employer’s recruitment decisions. 


Forms of Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Workplace discrimination can take up either subtle or obvious forms. Whether you’re an employer or a worker, knowing how to spot these instances can help you ensure a safe working environment. 


1. Harassment based on the disability

Verbal or physical harassment is arguably the most common form of disability discrimination. Employees or managers who make subtle remarks about a staff member’s condition or resort to physical violence should be dealt with immediately since this can pave the way for a hostile workplace


2. Asking a job applicant to take a medical exam

During the job application process, a person’s disability should never be a factor in whether they get hired or not. Some managers may conduct voluntary checkups as part of a wellness program, but they have no right to make you take a mandatory medical exam. However, some employers may require tests if the nature of their operations requires employees to be fit.  


3. Having inaccessible areas in the workplace for people with disabilities

As previously stated, laws such as the ADA and FEHA require employers to accommodate staff with disabilities. Making them work in a non-wheelchair-friendly office can make it difficult for them to perform tasks, so failure to do this may be discriminatory. 


4. Lack of support to people with disabilities to perform their tasks

Besides making a disability-friendly workspace, employers looking to hire disabled people should provide flexible work arrangements. Employees with heart disease or diabetes may require weekly trips to the hospital so providing extra medical leaves, a flexitime benefit, and other forms of aid is a must.  


4 Steps to Take to Stop Disability Discrimination in the Workplace


1. Read up on your rights

If you suspect that you’re a victim of disability discrimination, the first thing you should do is to read up on your rights. Knowing the provisions built to protect you will give you more insights into your situation and make it easier for you to take action. 


2. Let your employer know of the incident

In case a violation has occurred, inform your manager or your company’s HR. Most discrimination cases are caused by ignorance on the side of the offender, so it’s essential to educate them on the subject. Having an open discussion about your disability can help others reassess behaviors and prevent future incidents from happening.


3. File a complaint

If the employer refuses to take action or engage in dialogue, then this is a sign that you need to file a formal complaint. Getting in touch with the relevant authorities will help you address this and make it easier to resolve the issue.  


4. Ask for legal advice

Always remember that it’s never a bad thing to ask for help. If the situation you’re in is starting to overwhelm you, hiring a disability discrimination lawyer will grant you the assistance you need. Having a subject matter expert handle your case will ensure that all parties will be held accountable. 

Stand Up for Your Rights

After all that was discussed, it should be clear that the term disability is not synonymous with incompetence. People diagnosed with physical or mental conditions can be just as capable as any other employee, so employers must treat every member of their company fairly. 

Now that you have this guide, it should be easier for you to stand up for your rights and help fight against discrimination, no matter the form. 

In case you require legal assistance, we’re here to help. Our team of highly competent lawyers at Shegerian and Associates will be glad to assist you in your issue. Contact us today to get started.

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.