Health and Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
The people of the United States have decided that employees should not lose their livelihoods, careers and ability to support themselves and their families because of the health conditions and setbacks. There is no such thing as lifelong perfect health and most people will suffer from some form of health related condition at some point in their lives.Because employees with disabilities and health issues sometimes experience discrimination in the workplace, it is important to understand the legal rights and steps that need to be taken to ensure that employers respect those rights.
Three federal laws apply to an employee’s health-related needs on the job. Those are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Health Discrimination Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects private sector employees with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of their disability and applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Under the ADA, a person is considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or a history of a disability, or is regarded or perceived to have a disability. Examples of major life activities include walking, talking, seeing, hearing, learning, thinking, communicating, and working.
The ADA’s prohibition against disability discrimination includes health issues or treatment related to that disability. An employer cannot refuse to hire, fire, deny or promotion to an employee because of a disability or related health issues.
The Concept of a Reasonable Accommodation. The ADA requires employers to grant reasonable accommodations (changes to a job or workplace) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Reasonable accommodations may include:
- allowing schedule adjustments due to medical appointments
- frequent breaks due to disability-related fatigue
- changes in work hours, location, tasks or supervisors
- allowing an employee to be assisted by a job coach
- providing a sign language interpreter, and
- providing assistive software or equipment.
These are only some examples. The ADA requires employers to conduct an individual inquiry into each accommodation request and engage in an interactive process with an employee to find an accommodation that works.
Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)
The FMLA helps people with disabilities who have health- or treatment-related needs. The FMLA covers private sector employers with 50 or more employees as well as most federal agencies regardless of the number of employees. The FMLA permits employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. During FMLA leave, employers are required to continue an employee’s group health insurance under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
The FMLA allows employees to take leave for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his job.
An employer may not interfere with an employee’s right to take FMLA leave. In addition, an employee who has taken leave under the FMLA has a right to return to his or her job after the leave.
Understand Your Health Disability-Related Issues
Speak with your doctor(s) about your diagnosis, treatment needs, possible reasonable accommodations, frequency and duration of symptoms, and any other related issues. Obtaining as much information as possible will help you educate your employer about your disability and related needs.
What to Do If an Employer Discriminates?
At The Fraley Law Firm, our Florida-based law firm will confidentially review your potential Health or Disability Discrimination claim with you. There is no charge to review your claim. In addition, all calls and questions are 100% confidential.
If we take your claim, representation is on a contingency fee basis meaning that you do not have to pay us anything unless we obtain justice for you, meaning we obtain a settlement or get your job back- any payment comes out of the total sum of the settlement that we are able to obtain for you.
We have the legal knowledge and litigation experience to pursue your claim with the goal of protecting our community and your rights as a citizen to earn a livelihood. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation.
Ronald W. Fraley
The Fraley Law Firm, P.A.
2525 Park City Way
Tampa, FL 33609
Telephone: (813) 229-8300
Where to take your complaint depends on what law your employer violated.
ADA discrimination complaints against private sector employers can be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), http://www.eeoc.gov/. To be timely in Florida, those complaints must be filed within 300 days of the date the discrimination occurred.
Rehab Act discrimination complaints against federal employers can be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office for that agency, not the EEOC. Generally, federal employees have 45 days from the date of discrimination to contact the EEO counselor at their agency. As with ADA employment issues, Rehab Act employment discrimination issues cannot be filed in court until after they have been processed by the appropriate EEO office.
FMLA complaints can be initially filed as a lawsuit in court or as a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. Employees can file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor by contacting any local office of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm. Employees have two years from the date of the FMLA issue to file a lawsuit.