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Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Despite the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, disabled workers routinely experience discrimination in every aspect of employment nowadays. A myriad of issues may present themselves, especially in hiring, but none of it takes away from the fact that if a disabled applicant is qualified, they should be given equal consideration to an able-bodied candidate. If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace or in the hiring process, you may be able to bring charges in front of a South Carolina Human Affairs Commission panel or the EEOC.

Fear of Lawsuits

While the majority of those working in human resources are ethical and seek to hire the most qualified applicant for a job, some cite the fear of a disability discrimination lawsuit to justify refusing to hire disabled people (or members of any other marginalized class). However, the statistics simply do not bear out that disabled people place a company at any great risk of lawsuits. As such, HR personnel may actually invite more lawsuits by not hiring qualified disabled job applicants.

Approximately one-quarter of the charges filed with the EEOC in any given year relate to alleged disability discrimination in the workplace. In the 2015 fiscal year, almost 27,000 disability discrimination claims were filed, while in the 2005 fiscal year, there were only about 15,000. While some may point to an uptick in actual numbers, the apparent increase has more to do likely with the EEOC expanding its capability to deal with more claims than with the fact that more people are filing claims in the aggregate.

Costly Accommodations

The other major concern cited regarding hiring disabled workers is the fear of being required to make costly or burdensome accommodations for someone’s disability. However, the ADA expressly states that an employer need not provide any accommodation that would create an undue hardship to the company. An undue hardship is defined as something that would be too expensive or too impractical for a company to implement, and it can generally be proven by records and financial statements.

It is important to note that an employer must grant a disabled worker a reasonable accommodation—not necessarily to grant the exact accommodation that is requested. For example, if an employee with eye problems requests that the office change all its lights from fluorescent to natural bulbs, the employer may instead give them eyewear designed to filter fluorescent light instead if doing so would be cheaper or more practical. No one is interested in bankrupting employers to gain employment and earn a living.

Get Help From An Employment Law Attorney

If they meet all the other qualifications, disabled people are entitled by law to the same opportunity to work as anyone else. If you believe you have been the victim of disability discrimination in the workplace or hiring process, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney can be helpful. The skilled Charleston, SC employment discrimination lawyers at the firm of Hitchcock & Potts are ready, willing and able to assist you.

Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.


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