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Speaking Out Against Disability Discrimination

May 5th, 2023
black man in a wheelchair at the office working

All employees are protected from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA), including disability-based discrimination. Disabled workers are further protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires private employers with 15 or more employees and government employers from discriminating against qualified individuals or job applicants with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, salary, promotion, and training.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) requires private employers with four or more employees to follow all laws and regulations. Employers must follow local laws in certain cities and towns, including Philadelphia.

If you are experiencing discrimination at work, first report the incident(s) to your supervisor, manager, or HR. Document the nature of the discrimination and the dates it occurred in writing, and attempt to keep all communications. If you have exhausted all options and received no response to your complaints, speak with an attorney to attempt negotiations with your employer.

If negotiation attempts fail, both the ADA and the PHRA require the individual to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the last incident. In Pennsylvania, the complaint will automatically be filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) as well. You may have the option of filing a lawsuit against your employer.

What Is Considered a Disability?

The ADA defines a disability as physical or mental impairments substantially limiting one or more major life activities or bodily functions, such as:

  • Breathing, eating, or sleeping
  • Seeing, hearing, or speaking
  • Caring for oneself
  • Walking, standing, sitting, or bending
  • Concentration, focus, or learning ability
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Neurological functions
  • Cell growth
  • Digestive, bowl, and bladder functions
  • Immune system functions
  • Respiratory and circulatory functions
  • Reproductive and endocrine functions

The definition extends to include a history of, or being regarded as having, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or bodily functions.

What Are Reasonable Accommodations?

Under the ADA, employers are required to provide disabled workers with reasonable accommodations, which allow them to fulfill their job duties, such as:

  • Extended break periods.
  • Hearing, sight, or mobility aids.
  • Providing a more accessible workspace.
  • Modified work schedules.
  • Installing handicapped entrances and restroom facilities.

You must file a request for reasonable accommodation, which you can do at any point during the application process or your active employment. After the request, your employer is required to include you in the decision-making process. Employers are not required, however, to implement all reasonable accommodation requests.

The laws allow employers to decline reasonable accommodation requests if they pose an undue hardship to the employer. Undue hardship refers to significant difficulty or expense, the employer’s financial resources, or negatively impacting or disrupting operations. Your employer is also permitted to offer less expensive or burdensome accommodations.

During the process, your employer is permitted to ask certain questions regarding your condition and how it affects your ability to work. You may also be asked to submit medical documentation of your disability if it is not a visibly obvious condition. Your employer is only permitted to ask for documentation to establish your disability and need for accommodation and nothing unrelated, including requests for your complete medical records.

Philadelphia Disability Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Fight for Workers Experiencing Discrimination 

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at work, our Philadelphia disability discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. can help you assert your rights. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, and Montgomery County.

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