Know Your Rights: Disability Rights in the Workplace

Know Your Rights: Disability Rights in the Workplace

Federal law protects people with disabilities from discrimination in employment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21.9% of Californians have some type of disability.

Here is what you should know regarding employment

You do not have to inform an employer of your disability when you apply for a job or when you are hired — even if later you need a reasonable accommodation.

If you can do the job, it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire or promote you, to fire or demote you, to harass you, or to pay you less because of your disability.

You are also protected from unnecessary medical inquiries at work.

You have the right to ask for and receive “reasonable accommodations” that allow you to have an equal chance to succeed.

However, private employers with fewer than 15 employees are not covered by federal disability nondiscrimination laws.

If you need a reasonable accommodation

Let your employer know that you have a disability and request a reasonable accommodation.

You may need to provide a doctor’s note if your employer asks for one.

If your employer says no to your requested modification, try to keep the conversation going. Try to think of another change that would help or ask your employer to look at the Job Accommodation Network website.

If you believe your rights were violated

File a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The deadline for filing a complaint with the EEOC or your state agency may be as short as 180 days.

If you are a federal employee, contact your EEO counselor within 45 days.

Contact a lawyer.

Here is what you need to know when renting a home

You have the right to be treated like any other prospective tenant when applying to rent a home as  discrimination based on one’s disability is illegal under federal law

You can make physical changes to your rental unit to make it more accessible to you

Private landlords are not required to make these access changes for you so you may have to make them yourselves; however, if you do, landlords may ask you to restore the unit to how it was or put money in an escrow account to ensure they can restore it.

You have a right to reasonable accommodations in relation to rules, policies, practices, or services

You may have additional rights in public housing, in housing that is federally funded, and in public spaces associated with your housing such as parking lots, garages, lobbies, and sidewalks.

If you believe your rights were violated

File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or with a state or local fair housing agency.

You must file a complaint with HUD within one year of the last date of alleged discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

In some cases, the right federal agency may be the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact a lawyer.

Disability discrimination in public spaces

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal for businesses open to the public such as stores, hotels, restaurants, museums, theatres, and doctors’ offices to discriminate against people with disabilities.

You have the right not to be excluded from these spaces

The ADA only requires that businesses make architectural changes to their buildings that are “readily achievable.” Nonetheless, because the ADA has been in effect for 28 years, most businesses and buildings should have made themselves fully accessible to people with  disabilities.

Newly constructed commercial buildings must be fully accessible.

You have the right to bring your service animal into any business, even those that have an explicit “no pets” policy.

If you believe your rights were violated

File an ADA complaint form with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Additional resources

The Job Accommodation Network,

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,

National Employment Lawyers Association,

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development

National Housing Law Project, Reasonable Accommodations for People with Disabilities,

Source: The American Civil Liberties Union and the Job Accommodations Network

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