Your workplace rights in the USA

The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that in law, you are protected against disability discrimination within the workplace if your condition has a long term and significant impact on your daily abilities. To be protected by law, you must meet the employer's requirements for the job, such as education, employment experience, skills or licenses without consideration to your illness. It is your responsibility to ensure you are able to perform the fundamental parts of the job duties related to the role with or without reasonable adjustments (like talking on the phone, writing, any necessity). An employer cannot refuse to hire you because your disability prevents you from performing duties that are not essential to the job, which is why they are unable to request information on your condition at this stage (except for company equality records). Once your employment begins and your employer is aware of your disability, you have the right to request accommodations where necessary. 

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment and includes the purportrators such as a supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

The Americans with Disabilities act protects you within employment, it demands that you must not be discriminated against if you have a disability or a history of one, in:

  • The way that the company offer employment, promotion opportunities, transfers, training or for any other benefit or opportunity and the policies inflicted.

  • In your dismissal or the decisions leading to this.

  • Any other detriment or negative experience in relation to your disability.

  • Unfavourable Treatment in communication, behaviour, policies

  • Providing Reasonable Accommodation (unless this causes undue hardship for the employer - who can prove this)

  • The conduct relating to a disability of a friend, relative or associate

  • Harassment - Which can include offensive remarks about a person's disability. Although the law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren't very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). 

Note: Federal employees and applicants are covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, instead of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The protections are mostly the same.

While the federal anti-discrimination laws don't require an employer to make accommodations for an employee who must care for a disabled family member, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may require an employer to take such steps. The Department of Labor enforces the FMLA. For more information, call: 1-866-487-9243.

Asking about medical information 

The law places strict limits on employers when it comes to asking job applicants to answer medical questions, take a medical exam, or identify a disability.

  • An employer may not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions or take a medical exam before extending a job offer.

  • An employer also may not ask job applicants if they have a disability (or about the nature of an obvious disability). 

  • An employer may ask job applicants whether they can perform the job and how they would perform the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.

  • After a job is offered to an applicant, the law allows an employer to condition the job offer on the applicant answering certain medical questions or successfully passing a medical exam, but only if all new employees in the same type of job have to answer the questions or take the exam.

A medical assessment in employment 

Once a person is hired and has started work, an employer generally can only ask medical questions or require a medical exam if the employer needs medical documentation to support an employee's request for an accommodation or if the employer believes that an employee is not able to perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical condition. The law also requires that employers keep all medical records and information confidential and in separate medical files.

What to do if you face discrimination at work?

In workplaces that employ 15 people or more, you can file a charge with the EEOC. In most cases, you must make this complaint within 180 days of the event; if late, you can make a submission if you have a valid substantial reason for the delay. You can:

  • Contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or to learn about the filing process.