Having a disability can be hard, and sometimes those around us make it harder still. Discrimination is horrible, but it happens every day. Worse yet, it can happen to most of us, whether we are non-white, female, LGBT+, or have a disability, most of the country, and some other countries as well, is at risk for discrimination.
How do you deal with discrimination though? What do you do if it happens at your work? How do you deal with disability discrimination in the workplace? How do you assert yourself without losing your job?
Truth be told discrimination actually more of a complex subject than most might think. We’ll outline it more fully below
Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: Direct Vs. Indirect
Interestingly enough, discrimination actually comes in two forms, known as direct and indirect. Direct discrimination occurs when an individual is specifically mistreated due to some aspect of their identity, in this case, someone with a disability. An example of this is refusing to hire someone who could realistically do the job because they happen to be blind.
Indirect discrimination, meanwhile, doesn’t specifically target anyone. In fact, it might even be unintentional. Perhaps the boss tells his staff that they will need to come in early tomorrow to unload inventory from trucks. If one person on the staff has a spinal condition that prevents him/her from lifting that much weight, this would qualify as indirect discrimination.
Now that we know a little more about disability discrimination the workplace, what do we do about it?
Talk It Out
With any sort of workplace discrimination, the first thing you need to do is talk to the person discriminating against you. Be calm, but be firm. Let them know that you know your rights and that those rights are currently being ignored.
Ideally, this will end with little more than a moment of embarrassment and a heartfelt apology. They didn’t know what they were doing was discrimination, or maybe they just forgot about your disability for the moment.
The second best option is the person maybe not feeling bad about what they did, but agreeing to stop for fear of consequences.
Regardless, your employer should be aware that you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation and be willing to provide that for you. For example, if you have arthritis that prevents you from holding things, and part of your job involves carrying things, asking for a basket would be a reasonable accommodation.
One possible service you might want to consider is Your Plan Manager. This company provides help with money-handling and record-keeping so you don’t have to spend your workday dealing with numbers if it’s not your thing.
Go Over their Heads
With the corporate ladder being the way it is, most bosses have their own bosses, and so on. If the person you talked didn’t care about your disability, maybe their boss will.
The next step in the process is to file a formal complaint. Formal complaints are the corporate equivalent of a silent alarm. The person you’re having problems with might not know how serious things are, but the HR department and the next direct superior will.
For the most part, companies have a thing about lawsuits where they prefer to avoid them, so chances are your problem will be solved at this stage. If not, a formal complaint will give you more leverage during the lawsuit. It gives credence to claim of discrimination because if this were about money, you wouldn’t have bothered going through the proper channels first.
Disability discrimination lawsuits sort of have a statute of limitations on them. From the time discrimination occurs, you have anywhere from 180 to 300 days to contact a workplace anti-discrimination agency, state or federal, and officially claim discrimination.
Hold onto your hat, because if done properly, there will be an investigation. You may receive a document giving you permission to sue the responsible party. Keep in mind, this will happen regardless of the investigation results.
Even if no evidence of discrimination was found, you may still get permission to file a lawsuit. The evidence isn’t on your side if that’s the case, but you can still do it.
To the Court
Please note that this is the best time to find a lawyer. If you start looking into lawyers earlier, it might interfere with your case and even keep you from filing a lawsuit.
The last part for you is to consult with your lawyer and, if they advise you to proceed, fill out all the legal paperwork and prepare for the case.
Hopefully, things won’t come to this, and chances are they won’t, but if you have to go to court, you should know what you’re getting into.
Why Is It Important?
This may seem like a dumb question. After all, you are a human, and that means you have as much value in society as anybody else, but the problem goes deeper than just ideology.
People who face discrimination can be heavily impacted by it. A study conducted on the effects of racial discrimination found that prolonged or profound discrimination worsened the victim’s health and put them at higher risk for depression.
You might want to remember this when it comes time to approach your boss or co-worker about discrimination. There’s more at stake than just your pride and your rights. Your health as well might suffer, and the longer you put up with it, the worse things can get.
With Liberty and Justice
Dealing with disability discrimination, really any kind of discrimination can take time. Thankfully, most people don’t want to have to go to court and will try to fix things before things get that serious.
Even so, it’s best to know the whole process, because it’s bound to happen to someone and that someone might just be you. Know your rights and protect your rights. Disability discrimination in the workplace is a real thing, and you have to know how to handle it.