Passed over for promotion because of disability? Your next steps

Has a disability stopped you from getting a promotion? If so, your employer may have violated the law. You may feel reluctant to cause conflict at your workplace, but everyone should stand up against unfair discrimination. Moreover, you deserve the position and pay that your experience, education and talent warrant. 

If you suspect discrimination due to a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act may apply to you. Here are some things you should know. 

Definition of disability 

The ADA defines a disability as an impairment substantially limiting a major life activity. Examples of major life activities include walking, hearing, seeing and speaking. AIDS is also covered. 

Who the ADA protects 

The law protects you if the definition above applies to you or a family member. However, this only applies if your employer has 15 or more employees. 

Naturally, a disability does not mean you will receive every job or promotion you apply for. You must meet the requirements for the position. You must also be able to perform the main duties of the job, either on your own or with accommodations. Drug-users, even those in addiction treatment programs, are not protected under ADA guidelines. 

Employers’ responsibilities 

The law states that employers may not discriminate against people with disabilities while performing any employment function: recruiting, hiring, firing, training or promoting. 

Employers must make reasonable accommodations unless doing so presents an undue hardship. Accommodations can take many forms. Employers may need to modify work schedules, provide special equipment and ensure workplace accessibility. However, safety comes first. Employers may decline to hire or promote disabled workers if doing so would pose a direct threat to workplace safety. 

Your options 

If you believe your employer has violated the ADA by not promoting you, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; also contact your state agency. Discrimination against those with disabilities must stop. Always know your rights.