What are my rights as a disabled employee?

I have a disability that limits a few
of the things that I do at work. Heavy
lifting I can’t lift a keg , stairs,
and stooping a lot.. My boss told me
that if the stairs become a problem she
would not schedule me up stairs any
more. After I told her it was a problem
she started putting me up there more
and I have to show up because I need
the job. She continues to talk about my
problem to my co-workers and make me
very uncomfortable in the workplace..
What are my rights?

Asked on April 8, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

An employer is only required to provide an eligible disabled employee a "reasonable accomodation". This means that it is legally mandated to make it easier for a worker to successfully perform the duties of their position. That having been said, if making an accomodation would cause an employer "undue hardship", then it need not be provided. Such a hardship means significant difficulty, disruption and/or expense in the employer's operation of their business. For example, if even with an accomodation an employee cannot still perform the core duties of their job, then it need not be given. Consequently, if lifting a keg is an essential job function and you cannot do that, then no accomodation need be provided; if it is not essential than you need not lift one. It depends on the circumstances of the situation. In your case, if you think that you are being treated unfairly (i.e. discriminated against due to your medical condition), then you may have a claim. At this point, you can check your eligibility and, if eligible, can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), http://www.eeoc.gov/.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

An employer must make a "reasonable accommodation" to an employee's disaability, but an reasonable accommodation is a  change in the job, or the provision of some assistive device, which is not too costly or disruptive to the employer and which allows the employee to do the core functions of his or her job.
So if the things you can't do are not core or key to your job--the job can readily, without disrupting or more than moderately (at most) inconveniencing the employer, be done despite these limitations, the employer  must accommodate you and allow you to not do these things. In this case, if the employer will not accommodate you, you could contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency to file a complaint.
But if you can't do core or major parts of your job due to these limitations, the employer does not need to accommodate you--the law requires that you be able to do the core of your job. In this case, they can continue to require you to do these things, and if you cannot or will not, terminate you.

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