John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Considering invisible disabilities and disability discrimination

Being safe and comfortable in the work environment seems to be a given and expected circumstance in the workplace; however, this is not experienced by all employees in Minnesota and other states in the nation. In some cases, an employee might feel mistreated due to a personal characteristic, no matter how obvious that characteristic is. In these matters, employee rights still exist and afford employees the opportunity to speak out about these situations, seek a resolution and possibly file an action for compensation for damages.

When individuals think about disabilities suffered by colleagues, it is common to consider obvious and visible disabilities such as those that physically impair an individual. While it is clear that an employee confined to a wheelchair would need reasonable accommodations in the workplace, those suffering less noticeable or invisible disabilities should also be afforded the same workplace accommodations as other employees with disabilities.

For example, an employee suffering from Chron's disease or fibromyalgia may not appear to have a disability; however, these conditions could require an employer to make accommodations for these conditions such as frequent breaks or specialized and modified office equipment, desks and chairs. Moreover, these and other conditions could require frequent medical visits and treatments, or could cause the employee to stay home from work. If the employee is not treated fairly in these situations or his or her medical conditions or disabilities are not properly addressed, this could be considered disability discrimination.

When an employer fails to accommodate a disability suffered by an employee or mistreats or harasses an employee because of their disability, this could be evidence of discrimination based on disability. Employees experiencing discrimination in the workplace could take action to stop the mistreatment. Furthermore, if the situation progresses or leads to mistreatment and damages an employee could file a claim. This claim could result in a monetary award to help compensate the employee for the damages suffered and punish the employer.

Source: Npr.org, "People With 'Invisible Disabilities' Fight For Understanding," Naomi Gingold, Mar. 8, 2015

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