What Is Considered Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or applicant unfavorably because of his or her disability. Moreover, if an employer thinks an employee has a disability, but is mistaken and proceeds to take action against that person, those employees are protected as well. These situations are referred to as perceived or record of cases. Many states, including Minnesota, have state laws that protect against this type of discrimination. Minnesota’s state law is called the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The Federal counterpart to that law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Unfortunately, these types of cases are all too common in the United States. For example, harassing an employee because of their disability, making derogatory comments, mocking or ridiculing the employee, or displaying offensive images or symbols related to their disability can be considered discrimination. It’s important to note that disability discrimination can also occur during the hiring process, in performance evaluations, in demotions, and, obviously, other situations like a termination. Retaliating against an employee who reports disability discrimination is also prohibited under the MHRA and ADA.

Make Your Employer Aware of Your Disability

Whether or not to make your employer aware of your disability is a deeply personal decision, but an extremely important one if you want to be protected by the ADA or the MHRA.

If you have a disability that requires reasonable accommodation to perform the vital tasks of your job (like oral dictation software if you have carpal tunnel syndrome for example) you’ll need to disclose your disability to your employer. Employers legally have to provide reasonable accommodations to any employees with disabilities under the ADA and MHRA if asked. The only time employers aren’t required to accommodate a disability is if doing so would cause an undue hardship. This includes making modifications to the work environment or job duties, providing assistive technology or equipment, or adjusting work hours or schedules.

Under the ADA and MHRA, a person with a disability is a person who has any type of impairment that limits at least one of their major life activities, which also includes impacting a major bodily function such as immune system functions, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

The ADA (through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and MHRA (through the Minnesota Department of Human Rights) provide a mechanism for individuals to file complaints of disability discrimination on their own. These complaint forms can be found online on the ADA’s website and the MHRA’s website.

What to do When There’s Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

If you believe you’ve experienced disability discrimination in the workplace, it’s important to take action immediately. Both the federal government and the state of Minnesota provide important protections for individuals with disabilities, and employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure equal opportunity for all.

If you believe you’re a victim of disability discrimination in the workplace, contact our team today to speak with one of our experienced employment lawyers.

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Ross Stadheim

Early on in law school, Ross Stadheim discovered his true passion — the plaintiff side of employment law. Embracing a chance to make a meaningful difference, he never looked back. Before becoming a founding partner at MSB Employment Justice, Ross garnered over $29 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients over the past 10 years at his previous firm. See Full Bio

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