If you have a disability, then the people closest to you probably have a good understanding of the way that your disability affects your life, but the rest of the world does not. Only you, other people with a disability similar to yours, and people who have spent a lot of time with you really know about the things that are much harder to do because of your disability and the things that are not. Whether you put effort into raising awareness about your disability is a personal choice; from a legal standpoint, it is no one’s business, especially not your employer’s. Your employer does not have the right to ask you intrusive questions or act on negative assumptions about your disability, but they have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations that make it possible for you to do your job. If you have questions about your right to disability accommodations in the workplace, contact the Chicago employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
People With Disabilities Have the Right to a Discrimination-Free Workplace
The law prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants on the basis of disability, among other protected characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, and age. These legal protections are codified in federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act and state laws such as the Illinois Human Rights Act.
What does workplace discrimination against people with disabilities look like? It can take a variety of forms, anything from asking personal questions and making derogatory comments about your disability to terminating your job when you give your employer a letter from your doctor stating that you have a disability. It can also manifest itself in the refusal to provide reasonable accommodations or retaliation against you when you request accommodations or complain about your employer’s refusal to provide them. he law requires employers and prospective employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees not only after they have been hired, but also during the interview, pre-employment testing, and training stages.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
An accommodation is any type of help that makes it possible for an employee to fulfill their job duties or pre-employment requirements, but without which they would not be able to perform these tasks. The Illinois Department of Human Services categorizes disability accommodations into three groups, namely restructuring and modification accommodations, technological and accessibility accommodations, and assistive care accommodations. These are some examples of restructuring and modification accommodations:
- Providing a wheelchair-accessible desk
- Rearranging office furniture so that an employee can easily get from the entrance to their desk with a wheelchair, mobility scooter, or walker
- Removal of nonessential tasks (such as not requiring an administrative assistant who uses a wheelchair to reload the paper trays in the copy machine and instead instructing able-bodied employees who use the machine to check the trays at the end of each copying job and refill them when necessary)
- Flexible scheduling, for example to allow the employee to attend frequent medical appointments, take breaks to take medication or test their blood sugar, or commute to and from work in an accessible public transport van for people with disabilities
The following are examples of technological and accessibility accommodations:
- Dictation and text-to-speech software
- Telephone amplifiers
- Orthopedic desk chairs
- Apps that enable audio streaming to hearing aids
- Braille keyboards
Assistive accommodations involve the employer paying for the services of assistant to the employee; these assistants could include drivers, sign language interpreters, and readers.
An accommodation is reasonable if it is not dangerous or financially burdensome for the employer to provide it. (For example, it is reasonable if the employer assigns the employee to travel out of town for a business assignment and the employee requests a hotel room with a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, even though this would cost somewhat more than the hotel room the employer had planned to provide.) Hazards and prohibitive costs related to disability accommodations are known as undue hardship. If you think that the accommodation you have requested is reasonable, but your employer thinks that it is an undue hardship, the Chicago employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you resolve the dispute.
How to Request a Disability Accommodation
The Illinois Department of Health and Human Services provides accessibility request forms for employees and employment candidates to present to their employers and prospective employers. Your doctor may also need to complete a Physician’s Medical Review form, in which they certify that you have a disability and require accommodations but do not reveal confidential details about your health history.
When Employers Refuse to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
If your employer disagrees with you about whether the accommodations you have requested are reasonable, you should contact the Chicago employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to advise you in the dispute resolution process; you and your employer may be able to reach an agreement where your employer can give you an accommodation that enables you to do your work without costing your employer more than they can afford to spend. If your employer flat-out refuses, or, even worse, retaliates against you after you request accommodations, you have a bigger problem and should file a complaint with the human resources department at your company or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The deadlines for filing notices with the EEOC to initiate a preliminary investigation about discrimination are very short. Therefore, you should contact an employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible after the discriminatory or retaliatory action began.
Contact a Washington Employment Lawyer About Disability Accommodations
The law offers robust protections for employees and job seekers with disabilities. You have the right to receive fair consideration for employment and to employer-provided reasonable accommodations in the workplace. An employment discrimination lawyer can help you if your employer has retaliated against you after you requested a reasonable accommodation for your disability or has failed or refused to provide the accommodation you requested. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Chicago, Illinois to set up a consultation.