Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Having a disability does not always mean sustaining gainful employment is impossible. In fact, many people who have various disabilities are employed and thrive at their job. Also, there are vast many numbers of employers that work diligently to assist disabled workers in excelling and being successful in their roles. In 2020, the United States Department of Labor reported that 17.9 percent of people who have an established disability were employed throughout the country.

Still, this in no way means every disabled American is given the accommodations and respect they deserve. Workplace disability discrimination does happen. In any form, discrimination should not be tolerated, and it is also unlawful.

As a business owner, the goal should always be to keep the workplace safe for all employees. However, that does not mean a business will be successful in this endeavor and as a result, there may be allegations of discrimination taking place. When this happens, the way a business responds is critical.

If you work in the greater Chicago area and you are being subjected to disability discrimination in the workplace, understanding your rights can help you better remedy your situation. To learn more about your options for taking legal action, speaking with a Chicago disability discrimination lawyer at North suburban Legal Services can be incredibly beneficial.

What is Considered a Disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is meant to protect individuals that have disabilities from being discriminated against. As a federal civil rights law, the ADA applies to all disabled workers in the state of Illinois and across the country. Through the ADA, people that have disabilities must have access to the same opportunities other people without disabilities have. This includes professional opportunities.

According to the ADA, a person will be considered disabled if any of the following are true:

  • A physical or mental condition greatly impacts a person’s ability to engage in at least one major life activity
  • A history of having a major impairment
  • An obvious impairment that others view as a disability

When assessing a major life activity, the ADA explains these are any of the normal daily activities that most people do as a part of living life and sustaining it. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Movement
  • Speaking
  • Seeing/vision
  • Hearing

Some types of disabilities are identifiable and visible. Other times, a disability may be present, but it is not as easily noticed. While the number of disabilities is vast, a few examples of impairments include autism, diabetes, cancer, blindness, and hearing loss.

Reasonable Accommodations by Employers

In the state of Illinois, the Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities describes disabled employee rights. People that have a disability have the right to speak with their employer about obtaining reasonable accommodations for their job. A prospective employee applying for a job that has a disability can also request the same accommodation considerations to work through the application process.

Together, the ADA and the Illinois Human Rights Act make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled employees and prospective employees who are qualified applicants for an open position. Additionally, employers must respect requests for accommodations based on their employee or prospective employee’s condition. Essentially, this means, that where a job is done, the job’s work schedule or the job process can be all modified to support a qualified person’s ability to perform in the role.

The way an employer accommodates an employee largely will depend on the disability that exists and the type of job to be done. So, if a person who is deaf meets all requirements of a job posting and is given an interview, a reasonable accommodation may be requested by the deaf applicant could be to have a sign language interpreter present when the interview takes place.

What Rights Do Employers Have with Making Accommodations for Disabled Employees?

The scope of the requirement that exists for employers to assist disabled employees through accommodations is quite expansive because of the many variables that exist. But, when an accommodation presents what is considered an “undue hardship” for an employer, they can opt-out of making modifications. In this situation, the requirement for providing accommodations is lifted.

When determining if an undue hardship exists, there are several factors to look at. Both the size of the business and the cost of the accommodation can be considered. Under the ADA, Title I with respect to employment it says companies who have at least 15 employees have a general requirement to offer equal opportunities including hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and recruitment to people with disabilities.

Undue Hardships

In some situations, it is clear when an undue hardship to a business exists. Other times, it may not be as straightforward and may need some more examination. Typically, though, when an accommodation is going to be incredibly difficult for an employer to meet or too expensive to pay for, the employer may have a situation where undue hardship is present.

When cost is the limiting factor for providing accommodations, an employer may give the decision of paying for the accommodation to the disabled employee. In this case, the employee can determine if it is worth paying for the assistance to perform the specific job.

The ADA is protective of disabled worker rights. But it also has protections for businesses, too. Allowing for undue hardships keeps businesses from suffering penalties when they cannot meet certain aspects of discrimination laws.

It can be difficult navigating the law as an employee and understanding your rights and responsibilities. The same can be true for employers when it comes to abiding by the law. Consulting with professional legal counsel can help an employee get a clearer picture of the safeguards that are in place to protect them, and for employers, the obligations that exist. The Schaumberg employment lawyers at North Suburban Legal Services are here for businesses and employees and are always prepared to answer any questions about employment law.

Speak with a Schaumberg Business Attorney Today

The Schaumburg business litigation attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services, LLC are dedicated to fostering long-term relationships with business owners in the greater Chicago area and supporting the rights of employees. North Suburban Legal Services offers business owners and employees a wide variety of legal services to help each party meet their objectives.

To learn more, please call today to schedule a free consultation at (312) 909-6089.




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