Jan 3 2018
The increased awareness of sexual harassment and misconduct that swept the country in 2017 is an overwhelmingly positive development for Connecticut’s employees. However, if the #MeToo movement has a downside, it is that it threatens to overshadow other forms of employment discrimination that remain all too common. One type of discrimination that doesn’t receive the same coverage as sexual harassment is disability discrimination.
Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because that employee is actually disabled, is perceived as being disabled, or is associated with someone (such as a family member) who is disabled. Both federal law (the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act) and Connecticut law (the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act) prohibit disability discrimination.
Contrary to popular belief, not every employee with a medical condition is legally “disabled.” In order to qualify as disabled under federal or Connecticut law, an employee must have a physical or mental condition that is not transitory and that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning); or she must have a history of such a disability (such as cancer that is in remission). In addition, to qualify for legal protection, the employee must able to perform the essential functions of her job — that is, to do the tasks the job requires — with or without the assistance of a reasonable accommodation.
Federal and Connecticut law prohibit disability discrimination in all aspects of employment. Employees cannot be refused a job or promotion or terminated because of their disabilities. Employers also cannot harass employees or allow employees to be harassed because of their disabilities. This is often referred to as the creation of a “hostile work environment.”
Separately, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act also require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to disabled workers, so that the workers can perform their jobs. A reasonable accommodation might include a different sort of computer monitor, keyboard, or mouse, or a program that allows an employee to dictate. Whether an accommodation is “reasonable” is case specific and fact dependent. What might be reasonable in one situation is not reasonable in another. For more information on examples of reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, visit the Office of Disability Rights.
If you have been subjected to termination, demotion, or harassment because of your disability, you have rights. No one should face unequal treatment because of their disability. Contact the employment discrimination attorneys at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C., today. We are here to fight for you.