For the past 2 years, the media focused much attention on sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This is much needed and hopefully results in lasting, meaningful changes in how men and women interact with each other. However another form of discrimination keeps the EEOC very busy and sits near the top of discrimination claims for years. Disability discrimination happens when an organization treats a qualified employee or applicant differently because they have a disability. US law prevents discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, termination, job assignments, pay, promotions, layoffs, etc.
In the state of Hawaii, disability discrimination is the #1 claim for the third straight year, including 19 settlements since August 1 of this year (2018). Settlements ranged from $40,000 to over $2 million dollars. In addition, the EEOC in Hawaii announced several new lawsuits alleging disability discrimination have been filed since August, including:
- A company that allegedly terminated an employee instead of granting his request for unpaid leave to receive treatment for prostate cancer;
- A manufacturer that allegedly terminated an employee who took leave for cancer treatments;
- A restaurant that allegedly refused to hire a deaf applicant for a dish washing position
- A company for allegedly failing to accommodate an employee with cataracts and night blindness by removing the accommodation of an earlier shift and putting her back on a shift that ended at 9:00 p.m.;
- A staffing agency and its manufacturing company client for allegedly refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a kidney condition.
Reasonable Accommodation and Leave Time
There’s still much work to do when it comes to creating work environments that are safe and fair for everyone. To keep your company safe, make sure that anyone involved in the hiring process is aware of laws and company policy when it comes to disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are changes to the work environment or how work is performed that assist a person with a disability apply for or perform the duties of a job. For example, allowing a person with a hearing disability to bring an interpreter to an interview is a reasonable accommodation. Employers are not required to implement accommodations that are costly or would create significant difficulties for them.
The biggest area where employers get in trouble when it comes to disability discrimination is with leave time. The EEOC routinely goes after employers for complaints around leave time.
While reviewing policies and procedures, shore things up concerning discrimination against employees or applicants with disabilities. Know what a reasonable accommodation for your organization is. More importantly, remember that different opinions, experiences and beliefs make your organization that much stronger and more successful. If you let it.
While researching this post, I found the Disability Visibility Project. The Disability Visibility Project is an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. I enjoyed looking through their site and learning about all they do. The founder, Alice Wong, seems like the kind of person you’d like to have a drink with. Check it out if you have some time.