Employment Blues?

As we celebrate October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I wanted to talk about employment rights and responsibilities.

There is a common theme I’ve heard among people with disabilities in regards to job seeking and it has to do with discrimination. How many of you feel like you have been discriminated against in the job search process? I most definitely have felt like that before. Especially when you interview and get an offer from one person and then you show up for the job and a different manager tells you they decided to eliminate the position. Don’t get me wrong I have always had a job. Part of that has to do with the hard work I’ve dedicated to getting my Associate of Arts in Business, Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Master of Business Administration. Along the way of obtaining my education I’ve networked with some of the most influential people in the State of Michigan. Even though I’ve had amazing work and education experience I wasn’t excluded from the interviewer asking me if I was physically able to do a desk job. Sometimes the questions would be obviously discriminative and other times they were much more subtle. Do you know the appropriate questions an interviewer can ask you regarding your disability?

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forbids employers from asking job applicants general questions about whether they are disabled or asking them about the nature and severity of their disabilities.

An employer, for example, generally may not ask an applicant whether the applicant will need reasonable accommodation for the job. An employer may not ask an applicant how many sick days he took with a previous employer; this question directly relates to possible disabilities.

An employer may not ask an applicant about his worker’s compensation history. A question of this nature is viewed as relating directly to the severity of the applicant’s impairments. An employer may not ask an applicant about his current or prior lawful drug use. For example, an employer cannot ask an applicant, “What medications are you currently taking?”

An employer may ask an applicant whether he can perform the essential functions of the job for which he is applying, with or without reasonable accommodation. Or ask applicants to describe how they would perform any and all job functions, as long as all applicants in the job category are asked to do this.

When an employer reasonably believes that an applicant will not be able to perform a job function because of a known disability, the employer may ask the applicant to describe or demonstrate how he would perform the function.

If the applicant has an obvious disability or voluntarily discloses a hidden disability to the employer, the employer may ask the applicant whether he needs reasonable accommodations and what types of reasonable accommodations he will need.

For example, an applicant for a receptionist’s position voluntarily discloses that he has diabetes and will need to take breaks to take his medication. The employer may ask the applicant questions about the reasonable accommodations he will need, such as how often he will need to take breaks and how long the breaks must be.

An employer should inform all applicants of the essential functions of the position and of the employer’s attendance requirements. The employer may then ask whether the applicant will be able to perform these functions and meet the attendance requirements. An employer may also ask about an applicant’s attendance record with a prior employer.

This question is not considered to be disability related, because there may be many reasons unrelated to disability why a person may not have met the attendance requirements of a previous job.

Job searches are hard for anyone. It’s one of those things that you have to put your all in to and never give up. Did you know that people with disabilities can be appointed to Federal jobs non-competitively through a process called Schedule A?

For Federal Jobs check out this site:

Here are 10 other job search sites:
1. Indeed
2. Beyond.com
3. The Ladders
4. SnagAJob.com
5. Monster
6. Job.com
7. LinkUp
8. Elance
9. Explore Talent
10. Executive Search Online

If you feel like you have been discriminated against:
If it’s harassment, you have to report it first under the company’s policy for reporting harassment and give them a chance to fix the situation. Only if they don’t fix it or if the harassment continues can you file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or your state agency.

If it’s an adverse employment action, like a denial of a promotion, a demotion, a suspension without pay, or a termination/layoff, you must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or your state agency before you can sue.

If you tried working with your company and the EEOC or your state agency, your next step is to contact an attorney.

Like I said before looking for employment is a hard job! I encourage you to know your rights before you accept the interview and or position.


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