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Disability discrimination in the workplace

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace discrimination complaints rose in 2016, and the complaints pertaining to a worker's disability seem to be increasing. More than 30 percent of the charges in that year were related to disability discrimination, even though disabled persons make up only about 20 percent of the population and a smaller percentage of the workforce, both in private industry and in federal government.

Only 17.5 percent of people who were disabled were employed in 2015, according to available statistics. The low rate can be attributed to the facts that some disabled people cannot work, have no interest in working or must stay unemployed in order to retain certain benefits. There is also the fact that some would like to be employed but are unable to find work. Disabled individuals who are employed usually have part-time or temporary positions that may not provide them with stability or benefits.

Many disabled people assert that discrimination occurs at the outset where they have difficulty getting interviewed or hired. In the workplace, they may be victims of retaliation, refusals of legal accommodations, harassment, promotion denials and other types of discrimination.

The reasons employers and managers may have for engaging in discrimination against a disabled worker may vary. The reasons can include the idea that disabled workers are not as capable as those who are not, concerns about their intelligence or the belief that hiring disabled people is an act of kindness.

Federal employees and job applicants are protected from this and other forms of workplace discrimination, although the complaint process is slightly different from that applicable to companies in the private sector. People who feel that they have been unfairly treated by a federal agency may want to meet with an attorney to learn what recourse they may have.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Overview Of Federal Sector EEO Complaint Process", accessed on Feb. 22, 2017

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