The EEOC: Protecting Your Right to Work Despite a Disability

For many people, those with disabilities are viewed as less capable workers. In October, Summit Disability Law Group disproved myths about hiring workers with disabilities, demonstrating that workers with disabilities are very capable to perform in the workplace.

Unfortunately, not every employer is fair when it comes to hiring practices. Luckily, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created to make sure that fair hiring practices were conducted throughout the United States. The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants and employees based on a variety of factors, including disabilities. The Commission was created to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is their mission to address and eliminate employment discrimination.

According the EEOC’s official website, the anti-discrimination hiring laws apply to a variety of situations “including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.” It is a federal crime to be discriminated against while applying or working at a job because you have a disability. Discriminating is defined by the EEOC as treating someone less favorably solely because of his or her disability. It is important to understand that if you are able to work and you qualify for a job, your disability legally cannot put you at a disadvantage.

Recently, there have been several lawsuits concerning disability discrimination. One such example occurred in Maryland at a Walmart store. A prospective employee, Ms. Jones, was informed that she would be hired after completing a drug test. Ms. Jones explained that she was physically unable to complete the urine drug test because she suffered from end stage renal failure. She offered to take another drug test, but they cancelled her application. She was not offered the job because of her disability. When she took the case to court, she won her lawsuit.

Additionally, many people view those with disabilities as being less capable employees; however, this is not the case at all. Despite the challenges associated with the stigma surrounding disabilities, people with disabilities prove that they are just as capable as any other employee to succeed in the workplace. The website realworkstories.org includes countless stories of people with learning and developmental disabilities who have succeeded in their field of work. Emmitt from the Midwestern United States, for example, turned his unpaid internship into a paid job at a community hospital.

Understanding that a disability cannot be the only factor preventing you from a job is important. Not only that, but a disability does not determine what kind of employee you will be. Yes, understanding the illegality of not hiring someone because they are disabled is important, but further than that, it is important to recognize that hiring those with disabilities is not a setback, it’s a step forward. The EEOC challenges employers and employees to stand for fairness and to respect diversity. Hopefully, we can accept that challenge and implement it within our businesses.

Sources:

http://eeoc.gov

http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/visions/index.html

http://www.realworkstories.org/volunteering-internships/emmitt-how-hard-work-turned-an-unpaid-internship-into-a-paid-job

Photo courtesy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The image is in the public domain of the United States.