Though there are laws in place to protect disabled workers from discrimination in the workplace, the behavior itself is often overt that it’s difficult to prove. In some cases, subtle discrimination comes in the form refusing to assign tasks to a person, even though they are fully capable, or not including them in workplace functions. In many cases, this can lead to a disparity in pay in growth opportunity for the individual.
It can be draining, both mentally and financially to be the recipient of workplace discrimination. But there is something you can do about it. In this article we’ll provide several warning signs to look for and some advice on what to do should you find yourself the victim of disability discrimination in the workplace.
What to Look For
As mentioned before, in many cases, workplace discrimination can be subtle or overt, indirect, or indirect. Here are several examples and behaviors to watch for:
Direct: The manager of a company invites employees to an after-work function, except for employees who suffer from disabilities. The manager is often heard making crude comments about these employees during these workplace gatherings.
Indirect: A disabled worker begins to notice that the other employees are being promoted more often, despite them having completed the same level or sometimes more work than their co-workers.
Discrimination can also come in the form of joking, intentional isolation or belittlement. It is an employer’s duty to provide a safe environment for all employees to flourish in, regardless of any disabilities that may affect them. If you find that you are being discriminated against, you should take steps to fix the problem.
How to Fix it
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or prospective employees who suffer from a disability. This law covers all aspects of employment, to include hiring, pay, promotion, firing, and more. Even more importantly, if a person files a claim regarding discrimination, it can protect them from retaliation from their employer.
Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against on the basis of disability should first talk it over with someone they trust. Get a second opinion. Don’t discuss this with a co-worker, or HR, but find someone who can give their unbiased opinion.
Once you’ve talked to your source, decide how you want to approach the issue. If you intend to go the legal route, document everything! The more evidence you have, the stronger your case. Try to get as much as you can in writing. Keep a diary with important facts and dates.
If you decide to handle it without the help of a lawyer, talk to HR first. Depending on the situation, they may be able to intervene on your behalf, but understand, HR is there to protect the company, not you.
If you find that neither or these routes are appealing, you have two more options. One: you can either continue to deal with the discrimination, or two: you can quit and walk away.
The feelings of hopelessness, mistrust, despair and alienation often associated with people facing discrimination in the workplace doesn’t stop at the end of the day. Often times, the stress and depression follows them home and begins to affect their home life. Once you recognize that you are the victim of workplace discrimination, you must begin the steps to stop it in its tracks before it can begin to affect other areas of your life and health.