Every person has a right to be treated fairly in the workplace. This rule is no different for workers with disabilities.
Unfortunately, disabled people often face discrimination at work. In some cases, this is because of their employer's ignorance or misunderstanding, while in others it is based in actual prejudice.
Regardless of the cause, disability discrimination is never acceptable. It can be helpful to take some time to learn your rights under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, so that you can assert them if the time comes.
What counts as a disability?
Not every illness or injury qualifies as a "disability" under the law. Minnesota law requires that a workers' medical condition meet these four standards:
- It is a physical, sensory or mental condition
- The condition "materially interferes" at least one major life activity
- The worker has a record of impairment
- The worker is recognized as having an impairment
When does poor treatment count as discrimination?
Discrimination occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or employee differently, because of their disability. For example, illegal discrimination might occur when:
- An employer refuses to hire you because of your disability
- An employer won't promote you because you are disabled
- An employer treats you differently or gives you worse job duties than other, non-disabled employees
- Your coworkers are harassing you because of your disability, and your employer does not stop them
- Your employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations that would allow you to do your job
What accommodations am I entitled to?
Workers with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations. An accommodation is "reasonable" if it allows you to do your job, but does not create a safety hazard, create an unreasonable expense, or otherwise put an undue burden on your employer.
Some common examples of accommodations include accessible workstations, modified work schedules, accessibility software on computers or installing ramps to make the workplace accessible to wheelchairs.
It is important to note that your employer does not have to grant the specific accommodation you ask for. It is enough that the accommodation granted is reasonable and will allow you to do your job.
What are my options if I'm facing discrimination?
If you are being treated unfairly at work, it is helpful to keep a record of everything that has happened. Depending on the circumstances, you can file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or pursue a lawsuit. Your best plan is to talk with an attorney who can help you understand what to do next.