Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats a qualified individual less favorably than other employees or applicants because he or she has a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal law that protects disabled individuals from workplace discrimination and prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, pay job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and benefits.
The ADA also protects disabled individuals from harassment on the job. Harassment can include offensive remarks about a person’s disability, where the harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as demotion or termination.
A person is considered “disabled” if they can show they have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, hearing, seeing); they have a history of disability (such as cancer that is in remission); or they are subject to an adverse employment action and the employer believes them to have a physical or mental impairment that is less than 6 months in duration and is deemed minor.
An employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals unless the accommodation would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense. A reasonable accommodation means changing the work environment to help the disabled person perform their job duties. Examples include making the workspace accessible for wheelchair use, providing a modified work schedule, or providing a reader or interpreter to someone who is blind or hearing impaired.