September 19, 2018

Disability Discrimination in the Workplace


If you have a disability, you have legal rights. You deserve a fair chance to get a job, keep a job, and be promoted based on your qualifications and your job performance. If you need reasonable accommodations to carry out the essential parts of your job, Wisconsin and federal law say your employer should provide those accommodations.

Laws That Protect People with Disabilities on the Job

In Wisconsin, the Fair Employment Law says that employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees or job applicants because of their disabilities. This law makes it illegal to discriminate based on someone’s disabilities for many employment-related actions, including:

  • Hiring and Recruitment
  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Promotions
  • Firing and Layoffs
  • Training
  • Harassment

The federal government offers similar protections to workers with disabilities through the Americans With Disabilities Act (commonly called “the ADA”). The ADA only applies to employers that have 15 employees or more. The Wisconsin law, however, applies to almost all employers, so you are covered even if your employer has fewer than 15 workers.

Both state and federal law protect also protect workers from discrimination when the employer believes an employee has a disability when he or she does not.  For example, if an employee recovered from a heart condition, but that employee’s boss felt the employee could not handle stress and fires him or her because of it, that employee would have a claim even though by the time of the termination, the employee was no longer disabled.

Reasonable Accommodations

Sometimes people with disabilities would be able to perform a job if there were some changes to the work environment or the job. For example, an individual with a disability might need a wheelchair ramp or screen-reading software to perform his or her job functions.

Usually, if an employee needs a modification at the workplace, the employee is responsible for asking the employer for the accommodation. The law requires the employer to provide the accommodation if it is reasonable and does not create a hardship for the employer’s business.

What is “reasonable” and what is a “hardship”? The law doesn’t provide a list or a simple answer. Every situation is different. If you any questions about how this works in your situation, you should talk to an experienced employment discrimination lawyer to find out more.

What Can You Do?

If you think you may have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your disability, there are steps you can take to protect your rights:

  1. Keep a record of anything that happens to you at work that you think may be discrimination. Record the date, the names of the people involved, and describe what happened.
  2. Talk to your employer.
  3. File a formal complaint with Human Resources or upper management.
  4. File a complaint with Wisconsin’s Equal Rights Division or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  5. Sue your employer.

Disability discrimination law is complicated. At any stage of the process described above, you will probably have questions. An employment discrimination lawyer can answer your questions. Having a good lawyer is essential if you decide to sue your employer.

Contact Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP

Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP is passionate about fighting for the rights of workers with disabilities. Contact our attorneys today for a free consultation.

Nationally Recognized Law Firm