All Rhode Island residents have the right to be free of discrimination in the workplace. Those who have disabilities have certain rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers must abide by this law and can be penalized if they violate it.
Protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was instituted to protect employees against workplace discrimination based on their disability status. This includes all aspects of employment as well as the application and hiring processes. A person is considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits their ability to perform a major life activity.
Not all disabilities are visible. Some cannot be seen such as hearing impairment or learning disability. In order to be protected under the ADA, a person must have documentation of their disability. It must be significant enough that it limits something that many people take for granted. For example, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, walking, learning or manual activities.
Individuals with disabilities have the right to hold a job with or without reasonable accommodation. If an employee requests such accommodation from their employer, the employer is required to provide it to them as long as it doesn’t create an undue hardship.
Understanding reasonable accommodation
Reasonable accommodation refers to modifications to an employee’s job, workstation or work environment to allow them to perform the duties involved in their work. It can also be applied to the application process; for example, a prospective employee in a wheelchair might need their interview conducted in a more open space rather than the conference room if the doorway is too small for their wheelchair to fit through.
Other aspects of reasonable accommodation involve modifying work schedules, providing equipment, interpreters and even modifying the workplace itself.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against workers based on their disability status. If it happens and an employee complains, the employer could face harsh consequences.