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Understanding laws protecting against disability discrimination

People with disabilities in Michigan have the same rights to be treated reasonably and fairly at work as everyone else. In fact, disability discrimination is against the law. While some employers might prefer to hire a person who does not require certain accommodations to work at the job, the person's ability to do the job is paramount and there can be no discrimination based on a disability. But just because federal and state laws prohibit disability discrimination does not mean that every employer will follow the law. This is why it is important to understand what constitutes harassment and reasonable accommodations to those who are disabled.

A person cannot be harassed when he or she is working at a job or applying for a job because of a disability that is ongoing, happened in the past, or if the person is perceived as having a mental or physical impairment that is not transitory and minor. A transitory disability is one that lasts for less than six months.

Harassment can involve offensive comments. The law does not preclude minor comments, occasional teasing or minor incidents that are not considered serious. If it continues and makes the work situation hostile, it falls under the law of discrimination. If the conduct leads to the victim losing their job or being demoted, it is also considered harassing behavior.

The employer must also provide the worker with what is known as reasonable accommodation if the employee is disabled. The exception is if the accommodation would cause significant expense or difficulty for the employer to follow through on. If the worker is accorded a change in the work environment to help in doing the job, fulfilling its duties, or taking advantage of the job's privileges, this is a reasonable accommodation. Wheelchair accessibility is an example of a reasonable accommodation.

People who are dealing with a disability have the right to work just as much as anyone else. If there is disability discrimination or any other violation of employee rights, the worker can file a legal claim. Speaking to an attorney experienced in workplace discrimination is imperative to pursuing a claim.

Source: EEOC.gov, "Disability Discrimination & Harassment; Disability Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation," accessed on Jan. 6, 2016

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