The Americans With Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in the workplace or when hiring workers. In 2022, the EEOC filed 27 ADA lawsuits and resolved 34 ADA complaints. That’s EEOC litigation. Around 4 million Californians have a disability, and 1,338 disability discrimination complaints and 1,338 disability retaliation complaints were filed in the state.
Disability discrimination in the workplace is a lot more common than you might think. People don’t realize the common misconceptions regarding disability discrimination in the workplace. Discover these common misconceptions and the realities of them.
Disabled Workers Always Needs Specialized Equipment and Extra Training
One of the first misconceptions is that hiring a disabled worker means a company will have to spend thousands on specialized equipment to accommodate that worker. Training is going to take longer and tie up your trainers for a much longer time.
While some workers may need special accommodations, many don’t. They don’t require more training than others either. Many are just as capable, or even more so, than any other worker. In fact, you might find that some work harder to prove themselves, even though they shouldn’t have to.
Disabled Workers Ask for Much More Time Off Due to Their Condition
Another common misconception is that disabled workers need a lot of time off due to their physical, mental, or cognitive impairment. Stanford University opted to take a much closer look at this misconception.
Students at the university looked at almost 10,000 employment records over five years to study absenteeism. On average, workers took an average of 4 days off each year. Workers who filed a claim for short-term disability took an average of 5.2 days. Workers with a long-term disability took an average of 4.3 days each year. Hypertension and ischemic heart disease were the two most common short-term disabilities.
Disabled Workers Cannot Perform as Well as Able-Bodied Workers
A third misconception regarding disabled workers is that they’re not as capable as able-bodied workers. That’s completely untrue. Many can be stronger than their co-workers. People with physical or cognitive disabilities often work with occupational and physical therapists to overcome any hurdles they may otherwise face.
Look at Stephen Hawking. He accomplished things many men and women would never dream of accomplishing in fields like quantum mechanics and applied mathematics.
Disabled Workers Don’t Look to Advance in Their Careers
We’re not sure why employees often feel that disabled workers are happy to have a job and stay where they are. Most workers strive to prove themselves worthy of career advancement, and a disabled worker is no different. They want to do their best, prove themselves, and receive a promotion to take on new challenges.
Another consideration is that disabled managers and trainers will make other workers feel included. The more diverse a workplace is, the more welcoming it is to job applicants and current staff. Happy workers are productive and engaged.
Disabled Workers Have to Ask for Accommodations Before an Employer Takes Appropriate Action
It’s extremely common for management and business owners to wait for a worker to ask for accommodations before doing anything. A workplace doesn’t have to wait until a problem occurs. By being proactive and striving to have an inclusive workplace, it can make a company look better. The publicity that’s gained from being a caring, thoughtful business owner can make your company more appealing to consumers and potential clients.
Disabled Workers Must Have a Physical Disability to Gain ADA Protection
If an employer feels that only people with a physical disability, such as a military amputee, qualify for ADA protections, it’s a problem. Yet, people don’t associate disabilities like severe social anxiety, depression, or Tourette’s as being disabilities that the ADA protects. They are. It’s important to know exactly what is covered under the ADA.
Disabilities can be permanent or temporary. For example, a pregnancy where gestational diabetes is diagnosed can be a temporary disability. The pregnant woman needs to check her blood sugar and keep her sugar levels well-managed for her and her baby’s health. That’s a temporary situation that will end after she gives birth.
Disabled Workers Need Constant Supervision and Assistance With Their Job Duties
The seventh misconception on our list is the belief that disabled workers need to be babysat. Some employers feel they need someone with that worker for an entire shift to coach them along. It’s not true. Workers with a disability are competent and able to work independently.
Disabled Workers Require Accommodations That Are Expensive or Difficult to Implement
Employers may refuse to hire someone with a disability due to the costs of accommodations. If a business owner feels the accommodations are too expensive, they’ll use that as an excuse not to hire someone. It’s not true.
Even if accommodations are required, grants and tax deductions are available. The Internal Revenue Code – Section 190 offers tax deductions for removing some barriers, and a business expense deduction of up to $15,000 to remove barriers.
The Disabled Access Credit is available to small businesses that have revenues of less than $1 million or no more than 30 full-time employees. Tax credits of up to $10,250 are available for accommodations like interpreters, removing barriers, and auxiliary aids for people with hearing and visual impairments.
Discrimination Is Always Intentional and Obvious
Discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional. It’s possible to discriminate against a person with a disability and not realize you’re doing it. If your employer has put the time clock out of reach of a wheelchair user, it’s an unconscious act, but it’s hard for that disabled employee to clock in and out without getting someone to help.
Discrimination Is Uncommon and Not a Serious Problem
Finally, employers often believe that disability discrimination is not a serious problem. It doesn’t happen often, right? It’s more common than you might think. If it was uncommon and not a problem, you wouldn’t ever see court cases regarding disability discrimination.
In 2016, a trucker and the EEOC won a $36+ million verdict against a company that wouldn’t hire him because he’s deaf. He’d completed CDL training and had FMCSA approval, but the company he sued wouldn’t hire drivers with a hearing impairment. This is one of many recent court cases.
The Truth About Disability Discrimination
The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 protects people with mental, physical, or cognitive impairment. Protections cover you at work and when you’re applying for a new job. Discriminatory practices are more than hurtful, they’re illegal.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of disability discrimination or retaliated against for speaking up, talk to an attorney who specializes in employment law. Don’t let this behavior continue. Shegerian Conniff is here to fight for fair treatment in the workplace. Give us a call or reach us online to learn more about our legal services and whether your situation counts as disability discrimination or other types of workplace discrimination.