If you’ve suffered a disability and are now facing discrimination in your place of work, it can feel extremely isolating and unjust. However, remember that laws exist to protect disabled individuals from such mistreatment.
What is a Disability?
Under Washington, D.C. law, a disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual having a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment.”
Key examples of disability include illnesses (for instance cancer), even when they are currently in remission. The protections also extend to conditions occurring temporarily such as a broken leg or even acute depression.
What is Disability Discrimination?
Disability discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by law. This means employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees or job applicants due to their disability, whether it pertains to hiring, firing, pay increases or decreases, job assignments, restructuring, or promotions.
Disability discrimination also includes harassment like offensive remarks made about a worker’s disability.
“It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice to do any of the following acts, wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason based upon the actual or perceived:… disability…:
To fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any individual; or otherwise to discriminate against any individual, with respect to his or hers compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, including promotion; or to limit, segregate, or classify his or hers employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or otherwise adversely affect his or hers status as an employee…”
If you’ve encountered outright discrimination or are experiencing an environment where this kind of behavior is frequent and pervasive enough that it leaves you feeling uncomfortable or interferes with your work performance, this may amount to creating what the law views as a hostile work environment which could be addressed legally using provisions under anti-discrimination laws.
Protections For Those With Disabilities
For those with disabilities, there are a number of laws designed to ensure equal access and fair treatment in the workplace.
In the District of Columbia specifically, employees have a safeguard against disability discrimination through The DC Human Rights Act of 1977.
On top of this local protection in DC, federal legislation exists too. Under the sweeping federal law known as The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers across all states are prohibited from favoring non-disabled individuals over disabled ones or otherwise discriminating due to an individual’s disability status.
What To Do If You’re Facing Disability Discrimination
Facing disability discrimination can be an unnerving and complex situation. However, there are steps you can take to protect your rights.
Keep Thorough Documentation
One of the first things to do when facing disability discrimination is keeping a detailed record of all incidents related to the discriminatory behavior. These details should include dates, times, and locations, along with any potential witnesses present during those instances.
Keeping these records will strengthen your case in proving such behavior.
Report Internally To Supervisors
You should make others within the organization aware that this unacceptable conduct is happening – especially individuals who have authority over the offending party or influence over company decision-making processes like your immediate superior or human resource department staff members.
While this can be an uncomfortable process, it’s an important step that will help bolster your claim and ultimately help you get the justice you’re entitled to.
Seek Legal Counsel in Washington D.C.
Consulting with a Washington D.C. permanent disability attorney who specializes in disability discrimination law is crucial. Attorneys can assist you by giving professional advice tailored to your specific situation, helping you understand your rights under the law, guiding you through complex legal proceedings.
Initiate a Formal Complaint With The Help of an Attorney
If you have experienced disability discrimination in the District of Columbia, it may be necessary to initiate a formal complaint.
With the help of your attorney, you would first file your claim with the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR). You will be asked for specific details about discriminatory incidents and will need all related documentation you’ve been gathering. The OHR doesn’t represent either party but rather carries out an impartial investigation.
Enter A Mediation Phase
After submitting your claim to the D.C. Office of Human Rights, you will first enter into a mediation phase. This is an attempt for both parties to come to a mutual resolution before any formal investigation begins.
Be Part Of A Full Investigation
If mediation doesn’t work out, then the OHR conducts a full-scale investigation that may take up approximately six months or even longer if it pertains to employment discrimination cases.
Upon completion of this investigation, the legal team at OHR reviews all evidence collected during their investigation and drafts a ‘Letter of Determination’, which is essentially their final verdict based on all facts uncovered by them so far.
Appeal if Necessary
In cases where you’re dissatisfied with the Outcome or Letter of Determination, then a request for appeal can be made. This request must usually be submitted within 15 days following the issuance of OHR’s determination.
This process may differ slightly if bringing your complaint federally through The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is why having an experienced D.C based attorney who knows the local law as well as federal law and procedure will prove invaluable as they guide you through each step of this process.
Don’t Underestimate The Emotional Aspect of Disability Discrimination
Facing disability discrimination is not just a legal issue; it carries significant emotional and psychological impact as well. The mental strain of dealing with persistent unfair treatment can lead to feelings of frustration, sadness, anger, or helplessness. Just remember that you never have to handle this alone.
While an attorney can’t replace a mental health professional, they will do more than provide legal help – they’re there to offer you the emotional and psychological support you need during such difficult times. They’ll listen attentively to your concerns, validate your feelings of being wronged, and work tirelessly with a genuine interest in seeking justice on your behalf.
If you need help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.