Discrimination in the workplace based solely on an employee’s disability is against both federal and state law. Any company within the state of Oregon that has six or more employees must comply with Oregon Revised Statutes 659A.100-145, which regulate the civil rights of disabled persons and prohibit discrimination against disabled persons in the employment realm. Furthermore, any company with fifteen or more employees must additionally comply with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a federal law enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Both of these laws have specific provisions regarding the hiring of disabled persons and requirements to keep the hiring process fair.
Under either law, an employer is not required to hire a disabled person, just like they are not required to hire anyone else. However, an employer may not discriminate against a disabled person in the hiring or job placement process if that person is otherwise qualified and can perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation. Examples of reasonable accommodations include an amplifier so a hearing-impaired employee may use the telephone, or holding job interviews or meetings in a more accessible location. In plain language, if the person has the ability to do a good job without excessive accommodations, the employer may not use their disability as a reason to not hire them.
The Interview Process
Some disabilities are immediately apparent on sight from the moment the interview begins. However, many disabilities, specifically mental impairments, are not readily visible, if at all. Furthermore, under the law, a person with a disability is also defined as anyone who has a past record of a disability or who is regarded as having a disability though may not actually have one. For all of these reasons, often an employer may not be able to identify an applicant’s disability simply from interactions in the interview.
The laws further protect people with disabilities by prohibiting a prospective employer from inquiring whether the job applicant has a disability or from inquiring about the nature or severity of a perceived disability. If the job applicant offers information regarding his or her disability and initiates the conversation, the prospective employer may engage in that conversation. Otherwise, the employer may only inquire about the applicant’s ability to perform job-related functions with no reference to a disability.
Once a job offer is extended, an employer may require a medical examination on two conditions:
1. All persons entering that job are also required to submit to an examination, regardless of disability; and
2. Information obtained about medical conditions or medical history must be kept confidential and maintained in a medical file separate from the employee’s primary file.
Persons with disabilities should be aware of their rights in the job application and hiring process, and should not be afraid to speak up if they believe their rights are violated. If you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, contact our office as soon as possible.