If you’re like many people, you have a disability that’s not visible – and that may mean that you’re vulnerable to disability discrimination at work. Here’s what you need to know about disability for non- non-visible or non-physical disabilities.
Related: What is discrimination?
Disability Discrimination for Non-Physical Disabilities
Also called hidden or invisible disabilities, non-visible and non-physical disabilities can include things like:
- Psychiatric disabilities, such as anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- HIV or AIDS
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Cystic fibrosis
- Attention deficit disorder or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Learning disabilities
This isn’t a complete list – there are far too many non-physical disabilities to include here. However, you need to know that non-physical disabilities are very valid, and that those who have them are protected by law.
Things Non-Physical Disabilities Have in Common
Non-physical disabilities often:
- Can’t be seen or observed unless someone tells you about them
- Don’t come with visible supports, such as wheelchairs or crutches
- Can sometimes, but not always, be managed with medication or behavior
These types of disabilities must be documented in order for a person to be protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Related: Guide to disability discrimination
Can Employers Discriminate Against People With Non-Physical Disabilities?
Employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities, period. That includes non-physical disabilities.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, disability discrimination can occur when an employer (or an entity covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act) “treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because he or she has a disability.”
Disability discrimination can also occur when an employer or entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because that person has a history of a disability. That means things like a past major depressive episode count. Additionally, even perceived impairments (including minor ones) count; that means if the employer believes a person has a non-physical disability with no proof, it cannot discriminate based on that perceived disability.
What About Relationships With People Who Have Non-Physical Disabilities?
The law prohibits employers and covered entities from discriminating against people based on their relationship with someone who has a disability. That means if you’re dating someone, married or have a child who has a non-physical disability, an employer cannot use it to discriminate against you.
What Are Employers Supposed to Do for Employees Who Have Non-Physical Disabilities?
Employers are supposed to provide reasonable accommodations for any employee who has a disability. A reasonable accommodation is a change to the:
- Application or hiring process
- Job description
- Job performance
- Work environment
The purpose of the change is to enable a qualified person to perform essential functions and have an equal opportunity.
Accommodations are reasonable if they don’t create an “undue hardship” for the employer. For example, if an employee was in a wheelchair and requested a desk near the door because the maze of cubicles had too narrow a pathway to fit down, it would probably be easy for an employer to accommodate the employee. On the other hand, it would probably cause an undue hardship on an employer to build an elevator in a leased building. Some types of reasonable accommodations, which will vary between employers, can include:
- Allowing a flexible work schedule
- Changing job duties
- Improving accessibility in a certain work area
- Providing a product, equipment or software (or make adjustments)
- Providing reserved parking
Related: Guide to reasonable accommodations
What Kind of Discrimination Occurs Against People With Non-Physical Disabilities?
Several types of discrimination can occur against people with non-physical disabilities, just like it happens to those with visible disabilities. Failure to make reasonable accommodations is one way people discriminate against those with non-physical disability; others include:
- Asking job applicants questions about medical conditions
- Declining to promote a qualified individual
- Denying leave
- Differences in pay or benefits
- Failing to hire someone
- Harassing or allowing harassment to continue
- Laying off an employee
What if You’ve Been Discriminated Against for Non-Physical Disabilities?
If you suspect that your employer – or a prospective employer – has discriminated against you because of non-physical disabilities (either that you have or that the employer perceives you to have), we may be able to help you.
Call us at 818-230-8380 now to speak with a discrimination attorney in Los Angeles or Glendale now. We’ll answer your questions and give you the case-specific answers you need.