Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work, including people with long-term (chronic) medical conditions or disabilities. It is not only the right thing to do – it is the law. Here is a closer look at your rights at work.
What are workplace accommodations?
An accommodation makes it possible for a person with a disability to complete their job duties by adjusting their work surroundings. It could include:1
- Special equipment
- Changes to your work environment, schedule, or duties
Different people – even those with the same disability – may have different workplace needs.1
What are my rights?
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines 3 areas in which employers may offer reasonable accommodations. They include adjustments to:1
- Job application processes: This is to make sure that employers consider qualified applicants with disabilities.
- Physical workspaces: A person with a disability should be able to carry out their core job duties. An employer may need to change the workspace or how employees typically perform a job to accomplish this.
- Benefits and privileges: Things like access to the lunchroom or a company car allow employees with disabilities to enjoy the same perks as everyone else.
By law, employers only have to offer reasonable accommodations that do not create “undue hardship” on their company. This means changes that are not too sweeping or disruptive, or that could affect how an employer runs their business.1
In simple terms, discrimination is treating someone differently or less favorably. You can face this type of unfairness in many areas of life – at school, in public, and at work.
It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against you. They also cannot allow harassment by your supervisor or one outside of your department, co-workers, clients, or customers.2
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the law protects you against work discrimination when it comes to:3
- Unfair treatment or harassment due to a disability or genetic information. This includes your genetic tests or those of your family members.4
- Denial of a reasonable, needed workplace change due to a disability
- Improper questions about or release of genetic or medical information
- Punishment or revenge (retaliation) because you complained about job discrimination or helped with a job discrimination action like an investigation or lawsuit
If you or someone you know is facing discrimination at work, you can file a formal complaint with the EEOC called a “Charge of Discrimination.” You must file this complaint before moving forward with a job discrimination lawsuit against an employer.
Keep in mind that you have 180 days to file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC. Federal government employees must file within 45 days. The time expands to 300 days if state or local anti-discrimination laws apply to your complaint.5,6
Make a note of this information before filing:7
- Name, address, and phone number of the person facing discrimination
- Name, address, and phone number of the employer accused of discrimination
- Short description of the harassment or discrimination
- Dates when the harassment or discrimination happened
File a complaint by mail or in person at your closest EEOC office. To find the nearest field office, call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or visit their website.7
Civil rights laws also protect you from discrimination and harassment at work. Report a civil rights violation with the U.S. Department of Justice by sending mail, filling out an online form, or calling 1-855-856-1247.8,9
Legal aid organizations often provide free services for low-income people facing workplace discrimination. They provide legal advice, guides, and sample letters to ask for accommodations at work or report harassment and discrimination. You can also contact organizations such as PatientAdvocate.org for assistance.10