Disability is a protected category on account of which employers may not discriminate against current or prospective employees. The law protects discrimination against people with all kinds of disabilities, whether those disabilities are temporary or permanent, and whether they are visible or not. Any condition of health that has a major impact on a person’s ability to carry out functions of daily life counts as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). People with disabilities have the right to seek employment and to be free from discrimination in the workplace. They also have the right to request reasonable accommodations from their employers to enable them to perform their job duties. If an employer has refused to hire you or has taken adverse action against you because you requested a disability accommodation, contact the Charlotte employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
What is a Reasonable Accommodation for a Disability?
There are as many kinds of accommodations that enable people with disabilities to fulfill the requirements of their jobs as there are disabilities. The following are just a few examples of workplace accommodations that employees with disabilities might need:
- An employee who uses a wheelchair might need a wheelchair-accessible stall, with handrails and a wider door, installed in the office restroom.
- A deaf employee might need a sign language interpreter at meetings.
- An employee with narcolepsy might need to work evening shifts instead of morning ones.
- A blind employee might need modifications to her work computer or company-issued tablet, such as a Braille keyboard or text-to-voice software.
- An employee with dyslexia might need additional fonts installed on his computer that are easier for him to read.
Since the law requires employers to make accommodations for employees with disabilities at the employer’s expense, an accommodation is reasonable if it does not cause an undue financial burden for the employer. The bigger the company you work for, the bigger its budget for making accommodations; the smallest businesses are almost entirely exempt from making accommodations that would require the employer to make purchases. If you are in a dispute with your employer about whether the accommodation you have requested is reasonable, the Charlotte employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you stand up for your rights.
The North Carolina Persons With Disabilities Protection Act
Employers in North Carolina must follow the rules set by ADA, which is a federal law. Additionally, North Carolina has enacted the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act, 2012 North Carolina General Statutes 168. These are some key provisions of the North Carolina law:
- Employers in North Carolina cannot require an employee to disclose a disabling condition before beginning work, and employers may not retaliate against employees who disclose their pre-existing disabilities or request accommodations for said disability after accepting a job offer or beginning work.
- Employers may encourage employees to disclose disabilities for purposes of seeking accommodations, but they are not obligated to do so.
- Businesses where all the employees work at the employer’s home and its grounds, performing domestic or agricultural work, are exempt from making accommodations for employees with disabilities.
- Employers may still require employees who request and receive disability accommodations to undergo drug testing and may terminate their employment due to illegal drug use.
- Employers may conduct pre-employment skills tests. The employee may request to use their accommodations for the test tasks.
- According to North Carolina law, it is not employment discrimination if an employer hires an able-bodied job candidate instead of one with a disability simply because the able-bodied candidate was more qualified for the job. In other words, the law does not require employers to give priority to job candidates with disabilities.
Requesting Accommodations for Your Disability
When requesting a disability accommodation, you should fill out a Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form. If your employer does not provide you with this form, you should write an accommodation request letter or ask your lawyer to help you write one. Your letter should include the following information:
- A statement that you have a disability (you do not need to give any additional information about the nature of the disability)
- A statement that you are requesting a reasonable accommodation for your disability
- A detailed description of the accommodation you are requesting
- A detailed description of which job duties this accommodation would enable you to perform
If your job has a human resources office, submit the letter to HR; if not, submit the letter to your direct supervisor. Your employer does not have the right to ask you for any additional information about your disability; medical privacy laws protect this information. For example, if you request to sit in a chair at the cash register while other cashiers stand throughout their shifts, it is none of your employer’s business whether your difficulty standing for long periods is due to chronic leg pain, vertigo as a symptom of a neurological condition, vertigo as a medication side effect, or any other reason.
Retaliation Against Employees Who Request Reasonable Accommodations
The law forbids employers for refusing to hire a person because of the person’s disability, but that is not the only form of employment discrimination from which the law protects employees. In many cases, employers take adverse actions against employees after the employee has requested an accommodation for their disability. Retaliation can be something as obvious as terminating your job for a trivial reason, or it can be a hostile work environment that gradually escalates. In either case, you should contact the Charlotte employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys. You should also document all the words and actions you encounter that contribute to the hostile work environment.
Contact a North Carolina Employment Lawyer About Reasonable Accommodations for Employees With Disabilities
If your employer officially accepted your request for accommodations, but only made the accommodations grudgingly or incompletely, it is not too soon to contact an employment discrimination lawyer. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina to set up a consultation.