The prohibition against discrimination on the basis of a disability protects a broad range of persons. Those with traditional physical disabilities, such as persons in a wheelchair, are covered, but the law also covers persons with chronic health conditions. Federal and state law define “disability” in similar ways as meaning:
(1) a physical or mental impairment that
(2) substantially limits
(3) one or more of the major life activities of such individual.
The fact that one might be able to manage a disability with medication or through other means does not change one’s “disabled” status. For instance, many people with diabetes are able to manage the condition well through medication and diet, but they still qualify as disabled under the law.
Disability discrimination occurs in many ways. The traditional examples are lower pay, failing to promote a disabled person, and excluding disabled persons from certain positions. However, if a disability truly prevents one from performing the essential functions of a position, then it is not discrimination to refuse to employ a person with such a disability. The law only protects qualified disabled persons. A qualified disabled person is one who can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Employers are also required to grant reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. Examples of such accommodations include modifying work schedules to permit doctor visits and/or regular self-treatment and making the workplace and work conditions more usable and accessible for a disabled employee. An employer may only refuse to grant a qualified disabled employee an accommodation when it can demonstrate that such accommodation would pose an undue hardship.
The Law Office of Joseph L. Sulman offers expert legal representation in the area of disability discrimination. Please also visit the Boston Employment Discrimination Blog for updates about the latest developments in employment discrimination law.