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Are disabled people protected from discrimination on the job?

If you have a physical or mental disability, it is only fair to be treated the same as anyone else without being harassed or discriminated against for your condition. This courtesy should extend to your place of employment. In fact, disabled employees in every state, including Texas, are protected against employment discrimination and harassment by the Americans with Disabilities Act, states the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Federal workers and applicants receive similar protections under the Rehabilitation Act.

What defines a disability? The EEOC describes a disability as a physical or mental condition that substantially affects a person's activities or quality of life. This can include lifelong impairments, such as cerebral palsy, or a long-term illness, such as cancer or HIV. Mental conditions such as dyslexia and depression can also be considered disabilities.

Nearly everyone receives some lighthearted teasing on the job once in a while. However, it is unacceptable if the teasing becomes pervasive enough to negatively affect your job performance, or results in an adverse decision such as the loss of a promotion or wrongful termination. It is unlawful for an employer to base employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotions, assignments or wages, on your disability. Additionally, your employer could be expected to make reasonable accommodations for your disability to enable you to work, such as installing a wheelchair ramp, as long as such accommodations would not create undue hardship for the company.

Millions of people with disabilities across the country are able to enjoy fulfilling careers when they're treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, some employers or co-workers are not as sensitive as they should be, which necessitates laws that protect disabled people from discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

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