Realizing when you have been discriminated against in the workplace can be difficult in some situations. If you are disabled, proving discrimination can be incredibly challenging because discrimination often comes under the guise of support and empathy.
Our short guide here will help you understand what discrimination is and what you can do to fight against it.
What is Disability Discrimination?
Usually, disability discrimination involves the harassment of an employee who has suffered a disability that isn’t temporary or minor. This can involve both mental and physical impairment. While most employers do treat disabled employees fairly, employers sometimes violate those employees’ rights.
Examples of discriminatory behavior include making jokes or off-color remarks about an individual’s disability. For such comments to be considered harassment under the law, the remarks need to be made frequently to create an unfriendly or oppressive work environment for the disabled individual.
Disability discrimination may come under the guise of refusing to hire or promote a disabled individual. It can be found in how attendance policies and other corporate rules are applied to disabled workers versus non-disabled employees.
While the law doesn’t require an employer to take on an “undue hardship” in accommodating a disabled employee, business owners must make reasonable efforts in helping to accommodate a disabled individual’s needs. For example, an employer may not have to remodel office space for a disabled employee, but they can rearrange the office furniture to make it easier for the disabled individual to maneuver their wheelchair.
Before You File a Formal Complaint
To begin, you need to notify your employer of the situation. When the discriminatory behavior involves a direct supervisor, you should direct your complaint higher up in the chain of command. Your employer may not be aware of the situation, or they may not know how the problem is affecting your ability to function in the workplace.
You can begin with an informal meeting and give your employer a chance to rectify the situation. However, if time passes and the situation persists, you may need to report the problem to a higher authority within the organization. This usually involves filing a formal complaint, which you can do through the human resources (HR) department.
File an EEOC Complaint
If you still find it challenging to obtain a resolution, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This step is necessary when you feel like things are heading to a civil lawsuit. Almost every state prohibits employees from suing their employers. However, the EEOC will investigate your complaint and, if they find grounds to back up your complaint, they will issue you a “right to sue” letter.
The letter will allow you to pursue damages in civil court. According to EEOC rules, you have 300 days to file a complaint with the agency from the date you first notified your employer of the discriminatory practices. If your state doesn’t have discrimination laws enacted, you can still file with the EEOC as long as you do so within 180 days of the initial complaint.
File a Lawsuit
Your next step is to consult with a personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer will negotiate with your employer’s insurance company on your behalf to help you achieve a fair settlement. From this point and moving forward, your case will proceed like most personal injury claims.
If the insurance company is unwilling to settle fairly, your lawyer will file a complaint in civil court to kick off the lawsuit. A civil lawsuit involves witness testimonies and additional evidence to prove workplace discrimination. Ahead of going to trial, your lawyer will assess the strength and value of your case. This will help you better prepare for the lengthy battle that lies ahead.
While pursuing a claim in a disability discrimination lawsuit can become a long and complex process, it is not something you should let go. If you don’t fight for your rights in the workplace, your employer will likely continue to mistreat you. Even when this means taking your employer to civil court, your right to a civil work environment is worth the challenges of obtaining justice.
When it comes to disability, employers sometimes violate employee rights (learn more here), so don’t expect all of them to follow the disability rights laws to a tee. There are several ways to handle disability discrimination in the workplace, with a civil lawsuit being the lengthiest and costlier of them. But when the situation calls for it, lawyer up and seek the compensation you are due.