How to Deal with Disability Discrimination at Work
Whether you’re sitting at a desk, standing at a machine, or maneuvering around the halls of power in Washington, you deserve to be treated fairly and equitably. But unfortunately, not all workplaces are as inclusive as they should be. If you’re dealing with disability discrimination, this blog post is intended to provide practical guidance for you, our valued federal employees.
Understanding Disability Discrimination
Disability discrimination occurs when employers treat workers less favorably because of their physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities. It also happens when employers don’t provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. Besides the blatant and undermining forms, it can also be subtly embedded in the workplace culture, making it harder (but not impossible) to identify and tackle.
Recognize Subtle and Blatant Disability Discrimination
The first step you need to take is recognizing the discrimination. It’s not always as clearly-defined as derogatory remarks or unfair dismissals. It could be as subtle as consistent exclusion in meetings, overlooked promotions, or lacking accessibility features around the office. Once you’re able to spot these patterns, you’re one step closer to addressing the issue.
Know Your Rights
Under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you have certain rights as an employee with a disability. These include, but are not limited to, the right to reasonable accommodation, protection against discrimination, and access to the same benefits and privileges of employment as non-disabled employees. Understanding your rights is crucial in recognizing when they are being violated.
If you suspect that you are being discriminated against because of your disability, start documenting the situations and details surrounding it. Keep a log of incidents that you feel show discrimination, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses that may have been present. This evidence may be useful if you need to file a complaint in the future.
Speak Up and Seek Support
Despite the discomfort, it’s important to voice your concerns. Reach out to your supervisor or human resources and communicate your concerns about discrimination. Bring your documentation to support your case. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to supportive coworkers, friends, or family members who will listen, give advice, or even speak up on your behalf.
“Many able bodied people don’t have patience for folks with disabilities, so talking to your coworkers and trying to educate them is huge.” – Tina Tyko, Disability Advocate
File a complaint
If discrimination continues even after raising your concerns within the organization, it might be time to take legal action. File a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the body responsible for enforcing federal laws against job discrimination. But, remember, you only have a limited time after a discriminatory act to file a complaint, so don’t delay.
Experiencing disability discrimination at work can be emotionally and mentally draining. But remember, you’re not alone. Many have walked this path before you and there’s support available. Watch your step, speak up, and remember your rights. The road to equality may be long, but every step counts.