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What Is Indirect Disability Discrimination?

September 27th, 2023

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace and many other areas of life. A disability is a physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities. A person’s disability can be in their history, such as a disease in remission, or a characteristic that causes others to perceive them as having an impairment, such as severe scarring or disfigurement. The ADA protects anyone who fits these definitions. Protection begins with the recruitment and hiring process and extends through work issues, such as promotions, training, pay, and social activities.

While some disabilities are readily apparent because the person needs the assistance of a wheelchair or other device, many are not. Cancer, diabetes, PTSD, HIV, and traumatic brain injuries are some conditions that qualify as a disability but are not necessarily visible to managers and co-workers. This is when indirect disability discrimination often occurs. It could be accidental or intentional, but if the end effect is discriminatory, it is illegal under the ADA.

Accommodating a Disability

The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability. As noted, the disability could be physical or mental, permanent or temporary.

Company policies intended for all employees can result in indirect disability discrimination if an employee cannot comply with the policy because of a disability. For example, if the allotted break time is 15 minutes and all employees are required to take breaks in the breakroom, an employee with mobility issues might find it challenging to make it to and from the breakroom in 15 minutes. A reasonable accommodation would be allowing the less mobile employee to take breaks at their desk area. Refusing to accommodate them is prohibited under the ADA.

Other reasonable workplace accommodations include providing ergonomic keyboards or similar ergonomic tools to assist workers, modifying work schedules, modifying training materials, or providing an interpreter. Employees with mobility issues may need a closer parking space or a ground-floor workstation. A workplace that is impossible for someone with a physical disability to navigate is a form of indirect discrimination.

It should be noted that it is up to the employee to notify their employer if they have a disability that needs accommodation. If the employer is unaware of the disability, they are not required to provide any accommodation and are not liable for unintentional discrimination.

What Should I Do if I Experience Indirect Disability Discrimination?

Talk with your employer’s HR department if you feel discriminated against due to disability. Contact an employment attorney to discuss your legal options if they refuse to make reasonable accommodations to remedy the situation. You may have to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to force your employer into compliance with the ADA and recover compensation.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Fight for Workers Who Have Experienced Disability Discrimination

If you have experienced discrimination at your workplace, talk to our Philadelphia employment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Call 215-569-1999 or complete our online form today to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we represent 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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