When you start a new job, there is a lot to be excited about—and a lot to learn to navigate. Each job has its own set of expectations, responsibilities, and duties. However, each position and organization also comes with unique dynamics in the workplace that can have an immense impact on your day-to-day work experience.
If you are a person with a disability, getting settled in a new job is much more than decorating your workspace, learning the systems at your new company, and getting to know your coworkers. In some cases, you may face discrimination in the workplace due to your disability. This can happen for any type of disability, which is a physical or mental condition that restricts movements, activities, or senses.
Hearing loss is a fairly common disability, as are disabilities that affect vision, communication, social relationships, mental health, learning, thinking, or movement. While some people are born with a disability, others may develop a disability later in life. No matter the type or cause of a disability, discrimination is wrong and can be hurtful.
Disability discrimination can occur in many aspects of the workplace. Disability discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee poorly because of their disability. This may occur in the form of a lack of reasonable accommodations, harassment, inappropriate interview, the use of pre-employment medical exams, or applications.
If a person is able to perform the job tasks associated with a certain position, he or she should be able to gain employment. Unfortunately, in some cases, disability discrimination begins before the person even starts the job. For example, employers cannot ask questions during the application or interview process that would force a person to identify themselves as disabled. An employer can ask whether the person can complete the tasks of the job, but they cannot ask whether the person is disabled.
In addition, employers cannot require an applicant to complete a medical exam without an offer of employment. This could provide the employer a reason to discriminate against the disabled applicant on the basis of the medical exam. A physical exam can only be required once the employer has chosen to hire a candidate and offered the position.
Employers must also provide reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability. These accommodations come at the expense of the employer, and they cannot refuse to provide the accommodation unless they can show that doing so would create a financial hardship. Reasonable accommodations should allow disabled employees to apply for a position, perform their required job tasks, enjoy the advantages of employment. For employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, reasonable accommodation may involve an interpreter or phone systems that can accommodate their hearing loss.
Another serious form of disability discrimination in the workplace is harassment. This may take the form of offensive comments towards the disabled employee. Harassment can come from the employee’s managers, coworkers, or other departments within the company.
If you have been facing workplace disability discrimination, we encourage you to seek help. You can file a complaint in your workplace or seek the advice of an attorney. We also welcome you to contact our hearing professional practice to learn more about disability discrimination and how we can help you perform your job to the best of your ability.