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Advocating for yourself as a disabled employee

On Behalf of | May 16, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

When you have a disability, you may worry about facing discrimination at work. Whether you’re recently disabled and returning to work, or you’re dealing with a lifelong disability, you have the right to work in an environment that suits your needs. Employers cannot discriminate against you because of your disability, whether it is visible or invisible. You can advocate for yourself in the workplace by requesting the accommodations you need so you’re able to perform your duties.

Requesting accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act, and comparable laws in most states and in Washington, D.C., prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on a disability. You may request specific accommodations at work that will help you do your job. You can request special equipment or have your work environment modified to match your needs. You can also request alterations to your work schedule and job responsibilities based on your specific needs. You may also ask for additional breaks if you need to monitor your condition, take medication, or simply rest your body.

Each person’s needs may be different so it is important that you advocate for yourself as you know best what you require to be able to work comfortably. The Job Accommodation Network, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, provides guidelines on what are reasonable accommodations. As a disabled worker, you can request a free consultation with ODEP to better understand what accommodations you may need.

When are reasonable accommodations necessary?

When you have a disability, it is important that you are aware of your rights when applying for a job or when working. An employer must offer reasonable accommodations if someone needs adjustments to the job hiring and onboarding process. Accommodations must also be available to modify the physical environment so that someone with a disability is able to perform their job.

Employers must also make changes to the workplace that will allow an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges while on the job. This can include making changes to a workplace lounge, cafeteria or transportation provided by the employer. You should be aware that, if an employer claims an accommodation will cause undue hardship — meaning that it could cost too much — they may not have to make those changes.

Advice when facing discrimination at work

If you have a disability, you have the right to request that your employer provide accommodations that will allow you to perform your job duties. If your employer refuses, that could be discrimination. If you have faced discrimination based on your disability, you can exercise your right to ask the EEOC or a court to protect your rights against your employer, and you can start that process by seeking legal advice on your potential claims.

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