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Disability & Leave Discrimination

“Disability employment has lagged over the past two decades. And this situation was dramatically worsened by the recession that began in 2008…Employment levels among individuals with disabilities remain unacceptably low even though evidence suggests that, with a well-designed plan for an inclusive workforce, employers suffer no loss in productivity and workers are no less safe. In fact, there is some evidence an inclusive workforce increases the retention rate of employees and the employees with disabilities have lower medical treatment costs… there is no evidence that employment outcomes for people with disabilities as a whole have improved since 1990 [when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed]…”

Unfinished Business: Making Employment of People With Disabilities a National Priority, July 2012 Report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

There is no legitimate reason not to employ an individual with a disability who is able to perform his or her job, even if modest workplace adjustments are needed. As the Senate Health and Education Committee concluded having reviewed the social science research on the topic, employers suffer no loss in productivity and may even benefit from hiring individuals with disabilities. Our experience as lawyers confirms the same – good intentions and cooperative attitudes between disabled employees and their employers rarely results in any problems. In fact, our attorneys often adopt sensible and reasonable accommodations as a way of managing our relationships with our disabled clients, and there is no denying our experience – they work.

Despite this, employment of the disabled is at a low point and has not improved despite the bipartisan efforts of Congress to remedy disability discrimination in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) over a decade ago, as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which requires employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious medical condition. Unlike other forms of discrimination, legislative efforts to address disability discrimination have been addressed with broad bipartisan support, including the ADA Amendments Act which strengthened protections for the disabled in the workplace. Yet the disabled continue to be refused employment, terminated, harassed and denied reasonable accommodations.

What is so remarkable about this is that, unlike any other form of discrimination, the majority of the population has or will develop a disabling condition qualifying them for protection under the ADA or the FMLA. So why does disability discrimination persist if such a large percentage of the population falls within the protected class it was designed to help? In our experience, many employees don’t realize they have a disability, and if they are made aware, they have trouble coming to terms with it. If even those who have disabilities lack insight into their own disabling condition, this is a huge obstacle to the type of understanding needed for employer’s to make non-discriminatory decisions on disabilities in the workplace. If you have been disciplined, harassed, terminated or not accommodated because of your disability or related leave, you need to take steps to protect yourself and your career, and possibly file a lawsuit if you have been terminated. Speaking to an experienced employment lawyer will provide you with the tools and help you need.