Discrimination in the Workplace

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Dec 22, 2011 in , , | No Comments

Don’t let employers discriminate against you for health reasons.

Many people in the workforce have medical conditions that require medication, doctors visits for monitoring, and personal vigilance to keep problems under control. But for the vast majority, their health issues don’t directly affect the quality of their work. So, why is it that employers sometimes discriminate against people? Most likely it’s fear and ignorance. What should job seekers disclose?

Here are a few tips I’ve condensed from On The Job, by Marcia Levine Mazzur, to help job seekers and those employed, to protect against this type of employment discrimination:

  • During the pre-employment process, an employer may not ask about a health condition.
  • The potential employer may not ask you to take a physical examination until after you have been offered a job, and only if others in the same position are also given physicals.
  • You have to disclose your medical condition only if it is relevant to the job.
  • If you have certain difficulties that would preclude you from performing the duties of a job, (which reasonable accommodation would not solve), it’s best not to apply for that particular position.
  • After employment, discuss your condition with your employer if you feel it’s necessary to be accommodated in some way, or in case of an emergency.
  • Let your coworkers know too, just in case you require assistance, or in an emergency.
  • You are entitled to receive reasonable accommodation for your health problem to assist in doing your job.
  • If a job offer for employment is given, then rescinded, (after a health issue is disclosed), you may have grounds for legal action.

It is a personal choice whether to disclose a medical problem to a potential employer. Let your conscience–and health problem–be your guide.

I personally have known diabetics who prefer to make their boss aware of their condition, so they may take a break to check their insulin levels during the day. They also let their closest coworkers know what signs to look for that would preclude a medical emergency. I think this is wise on their part.

Never hold back information which could potentially put you, coworkers, or others lives in danger. Doing so would be irresponsible and could set you up for legal headaches, not to mention losing your job. Be vigilant about personal care and professional monitoring of any chronic medical condition. This ensures you’re always on top of it, while reducing any possibility of missed days at work or emergencies on the job.

If you feel you’ve been unfairly treated or discriminated against for your health issue, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 1-800-669-4000 . Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 covers employment in the private sector as well as state and local governments. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides similar protections related to federal employment.


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