What Causes Disability Discrimination?
In today’s workplace, there is tremendous diversity. This is particularly true of people with disabilities, who now have opportunities to excel in jobs for which only a decade or so ago they never would have been considered. However, despite many gains made by individuals with disabilities, discrimination still remains within many companies. However, thanks to local and state laws, as well as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled individuals who are being discriminated against in the workplace have various legal options available to them. If you are a disabled individual who is experiencing workplace discrimination, it is crucial you take immediate action to rectify the situation. Rather than be intimidated by your employer or the process ahead, here are some steps you can take to ensure you get the employment opportunities you deserve.
Be Assertive with Your Rights
If you feel as if you are being discriminated against due to your disability, do not sit back and do nothing. Instead, be very assertive with your rights. Remember that although the ADA applies only to companies with at least 15 employees, there are numerous local and state laws that can help you even if you work for a very small company. Therefore, speak directly with your manager or supervisor about your concerns. If you are lucky, they may not even realize they are discriminating against you, and will be very willing to correct the situation.
Due to your disability, you are entitled to your employer being required to grant you reasonable accommodations that will allow you to perform the duties associated with your job. For example, if you are denied a job that includes driving due to you being confined to a wheelchair, you have the legal right to ask for reasonable accommodations. These can include having a company vehicle modified for your needs, or even being reimbursed for use of your own personal vehicle. Whatever the case may be, if your direct supervisor does not take your requests seriously, it may be time to consider speaking with a disability discrimination attorney about your situation.
Filing an Internal Complaint
Once you have spoken directly with your manager or supervisor and gotten nowhere, your next step may be to file an internal complaint. Since disability discrimination law can be very complex, this is an important step in the process should you wind up filing a lawsuit at some point. By filing this complaint, you can accomplish two very important things. First, you are yet again giving your employer another chance to listen to your concerns and correct the problem. In some instances where a manager or supervisor may choose to ignore you, higher-level managers or human resources personnel may instead take your discrimination complaint very seriously. If all goes well, this will get the problem corrected quickly and easily, making it unnecessary for you to hire an employment lawyer from West Coast Employment Lawyers.
Along with giving your employer an additional chance to solve the problem, an internal complaint puts your company on notice that you may be considering legal action regarding possible disability discrimination. This will be important should you choose to file a lawsuit, since this will show the court you did everything possible to solve the problem prior to filing your lawsuit. If this occurs, your employer could ultimately be made to pay punitive damages. Since these damages are meant as punishment by the court, they can often be for very large amounts.
Filing a Charge of Discrimination
Whether your employer pleads ignorance of disability discrimination law or simply chooses to ignore existing laws due to prejudices or other reasons, you will at some point need to file a charge of discrimination against your employer if you want your case to continue. This charge will be filed either with a state anti-discrimination agency or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In either case, there are many important things to remember. For example, you must file this charge in order to keep your right to sue for disability discrimination. Also, if this charge is not filed before you hire a disability discrimination attorney, a judge will throw out your case, leaving you with nothing to show for your efforts.
Time Limits and Processing the Charges
Like anything in the legal world, there are deadlines to meet in these situations. For example, if you reside in a state that has its own set of laws governing disability discrimination, you will have no more than 300 days to file your charges. However, in states without these laws, the time given is only 180 days. Once your charges have been filed, the agency in charge will then ask your employer to respond to the charges. While this is being done, the agency will also conduct an investigation into the matter, which will involve interviewing managers, supervisors, and others involved in or who witnessed the discrimination. In some cases, the agency may offer to help settle or mediate the case, depending on its findings.
“Right to Sue” Letter
No matter the results of the agency’s investigation into your charges of disability discrimination, you will at some point receive what is known as a “right to sue” letter. Once you have this letter, you then have the legal right to proceed with a disability discrimination lawsuit against your employer. However, if time is of the essence and your charge is being handled by the EEOC, you may request the “right to sue” letter while the charge is still being processed. Whether the investigating agency determines no discrimination occurred, believes there was a violation of law, or is somewhere in between with its ruling, the next decision will be up to you. In rare cases, an agency can pursue litigation claims on its own, but it is usually far better if you handle this yourself by working with an experienced employment lawyer.
How to File the Lawsuit
If you feel as if it is necessary to file a disability discrimination lawsuit, there are several steps to keep in mind. The first and most obvious is selecting and hiring a disability discrimination attorney who not only possesses extensive experience in these cases, but also has a track record of winning these cases as well. Along with this, make sure you are working with an attorney with whom you feel comfortable, and who will provide you with an objective evaluation of your case and its possible outcomes. Also, be prepared to be patient while your case plays out. Since your lawyer will need to examine large amounts of records, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and file various paperwork with the court, it could take many months before your case is ultimately settled. If you have a strong case, your lawyer may be able to shorten this time frame by negotiating a settlement with your employer, which in many cases is exactly what happens.
While people with disabilities have made tremendous progress in the workplace and society over the past two decades, discrimination is still a regular occurrence in many companies and organizations. If you have been discriminated against and need expert legal guidance, schedule a consultation as soon as possible with West Coast Employment Lawyers.