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Dealing with disabilities in the workplace

Many workers in D.C. may feel inclined to keep their disabilities a secret from their boss. This may be due to a fear that the employer may believe they are not well-suited for current or higher positions. Other people may dislike the stigma around their disabilities, which may create an uncomfortable work environment, even if the hostility is only perceived rather than actual.

Forbes reports that 15% of the world's population suffers from some kind of disability. In addition to this, three of ever four employees now face mental illness in some form. In a 2014 study cited by Forbes, more than half of the participants believed their mental illness had interfered with their ability to get a job they wanted before. Others received negative responses or even lost current employment.

Forbes recommends that before disclosing a disability, if workers are hesitant, they should consider whether or not it will affect their work. A disability that does not affect their ability to perform may not be worth disclosing. If, however, it does and they disclose this to their employer, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires the employer to provide reasonable accommodation.

According to D.C.'s Office of Disability Rights, reasonable accommodation is not only for people faced with permanent disabilities. A person undergoing medical treatment for cancer or another chronic illness may struggle to get to work on time. When the employee discloses this information to the employer, the ODR counts this as a request for reasonable accommodation.

A common misconception among people suffering from permanent or temporary disability is that only special workers may receive reasonable accommodation. After all, the boss is unlikely to want to lose a high-performer or director. However, the ODR notes that workers are entitled to reasonable accommodation regardless of employment status, salary, title or civil service status.

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Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC
1400 16th Street, NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202-745-1942
Fax: 202-745-2627
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