What is the law regarding employment discrimination and the disabled?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2010

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What is the law regarding employment discrimination and the disabled?

I am a 28 year-old disabled mother and I just finished beauty school. I use a cane or sometimes walker to get around. A week ago I started working at a salon but today I called the owner (my boss) to let her know that I was still swollen from oral surgery. She said me that she needed to speak with me. She told me that “someone called her attention because of my disability,” that someone had “told her that she could get in trouble for giving me employment”. Yet she has someone else working there that just came from another country 2 months ago and who doesn’t even have a beauty school diploma. This really made me feel bad and discriminated against. I’ve been through so much in life and I just can’t seem to catch a break. What should I do?

Asked on September 29, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Discrimination against the disabled in employment is forbidden by law. Employers can't refuse to hire, retain, promote, etc. someone because of a disability. They also have to make "reasonable accomodations," which means making reasonable changes (e.g. letting someone use a high stool while working, instead of standing) to let a disabled person work. Only if the disabled person simply cannot do the job, even with reasonable accomodations, does the employer have grounds for not employing them.

If you feel you have been discriminated against, you should either (1) talk to an employment law attorney or (2) contact the Dept. of Labor; the second (the DOL) will be free, but they are overloaded with work and will probably not be able to give you the attention of your own attorney. You may very well have a legal claim for being discriminated against or harassed because of a condition--particularly if you have suffered any adverse action, such as termination, shorter hours, less pay, etc.

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