Disability Discrimination of Federal Employees

Federal employees who are living with disabilities are protected from workplace discrimination. While most places of employment are covered by the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees of the federal government are protected by a separate law, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While the protections were created in a different law, they are predominantly the same as the protections afforded in the ADA. Both of these laws, along with many other workplace discrimination statutes are enforced by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

What constitutes discrimination of a disabled employee in the workplace?

The EEOC describes workplace discrimination as treating a “qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a disability.” If the employee has had a disability in the past and is treated unfavorably as a result, that is discrimination as well. The example of this is treating a cancer survivor who is in remission unfavorably because of the past medical condition. The law protects employees from discrimination based on the disability of a relative as well.

Examples of unfavorable treatment include lower pay, denial of promotions, layoffs, or not hiring a person. If any decisions such as these are made on the basis of the employee’s disability, then the Rehabilitation Act has been violated.

Employees are also protected from harassment based on their disability. Harassment could be jokes, offensive remarks, offensive emails, or any other actions that create a hostile work environment. The perpetrator of the harassment could be another employee, but could also be a client. The employer is responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent or stop such harassment.

What if I need accommodations because of my disability?

Employers must provide disabled employees with accommodations that allow them to effectively do their jobs, so long as the accommodations do not create an undue hardship for the employing agency. Undue hardships involve arrangements that are expensive, create unfair burdens on co-workers, or create safety hazards.

What if I believe I have been discriminated against?

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. You should also consider speaking with an experienced employment attorney.

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