According to this report, disabled Americans filed more discrimination complaints than ever before. We've certainly noticed that people with disabilities are facing increasing scrutiny in the workplace. Missing work -- even when protected under the Family & Medical Leave Act -- and asking for accommodations such as working from home or extended bathroom breaks give employers a sense that we are less productive than others, so when it's time to cut the workforce, many of us are the first to go. I'm glad people are filing complaints -- but I'd be interested to know how many of those complaints actually get anywhere.
There's a big problem with the law for people with disabilities. If you cannot perform the "essential functions" of the job, even with accommodation, you can be fired and it's not illegal. So if your employer says presence in the workplace is an essential function and you say you have to work from home, you can be fired. I'm always nervous when an employee calls me and asks me if they can ask for work from home or a transfer or something relatively big like that. I hate the thought that people may hand their employers an excuse to fire them. And the truth is that most complaints of discrimination don't get anywhere unless you get a lawyer and file suit, and even then, these cases are so hard to win, especially in a bad economy when the pressure on employers is so great.
Between a rock and a hard place. The law is great when it works. For example, getting accommodations in school remains pretty easily done. And getting ergonomic workstations is pretty easy, too -- these are the kinds of things that employers are used to having to do, and they're not terribly expensive. But when the problem becomes being able to make it to work every day, or needing breaks, or needing to be transferred to a different shift or a different job -- these are far more difficult, and the right answer is rarely clear.
If you're in this situation, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk it through. Jennifer