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Disability discrimination in the workplace is forbidden by law


In some ways, employment discrimination because of disability has proved extremely difficult to combat. According to interviews with individuals having severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, they mostly want to be treated as just people and not as an alien species. Fortunately, Florida and all other states are now bound by federal and state laws that protect the rights of the disabled from discrimination in the workplace.

United States census statistics report that about 51 million Americans have a disability, which boils down to about 18 percent of the population. Two-thirds of them have a severe disability. It was a much more difficult terrain to travel prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The federal law guarantees fair treatment to disabled persons in employment, public services and public accommodations.

Several federal agencies across a number of subject areas have jurisdiction to monitor and/or enforce the ADA. With respect to ADA provisions on employment law, it's illegal for an employer to make employment decisions solely on the basis of disability, unless it's shown that the person cannot perform the job duties even if 'reasonable accommodations' are provided. Thus, an employer cannot discriminate against a disabled employee by refusing to hire, fire or make promotion-demotion decisions based on a disability. The employer must first determine if there are reasonable accommodations that will facilitate the person's ability to do the job.

For example, someone with recognized low back pain may need a specially designed chair that allows the worker to get through a work day. It may be prosthetic devices, re-configured hours of work or transfer to another department with different work requirements. There are a myriad of other accommodations that could prevent discrimination and be helpful to a disabled worker, depending on the nature of the disability and the job duties.

The employer, however, does not have to make extraordinary or burdensome accommodations, only reasonable ones. Florida is subject to the federal ADA and also has its own statutes that provide discrimination protection for disabled workers. The area is complex enough that you'll be well-served by first getting a complete and accurate explanation of your rights and options through a consultation with employment counsel.

Source:, "Local Residents With Disabilities Ask to Be Treated With Respect, Not Pity or Fear," Gary White, May 18, 2013

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