For workers with disabilities, navigating the employment process can be challenging. You may have different needs and limitations than other workers. Yet, the prospect of making those needs known can be intimidating, especially if you’re just starting out.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Know your rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees (and prospective employees) on the basis of a disability. It also requires them to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities (unless doing so would cause undue hardship). The Act applies to government employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and private employers with 15 or more employees.
- Request an accommodation sooner rather than later. The ADA does require employees to request accommodations. Your employer isn’t obligated to offer them proactively. Likewise, they aren’t required to provide accommodations for disabilities they don’t know about. And while you certainly don’t need to bring it up during the job interview or even after an offer, it’s best to request an accommodation sooner rather than later. If you wait too long, your employer may question (rightly or wrongly) whether the accommodation is actually necessary, since you’ve gone without it for so long.
- Put everything in writing. The ADA doesn’t require a written request for an accommodation. A verbal one is just as effective. However, it’s still wise to make the request in writing (or follow up a verbal request with written documentation). That way, you have a record of when and how you requested it. Detailed records can help support your position if your employer denies your request and you end up filing a claim.
Keep in mind that your employer can’t retaliate against you for requesting an accommodation. If you feel you’ve experienced retaliation – for example, a demotion, unfavorable working conditions, limited opportunities or other adverse employment action – because of your disability, talk to an employment lawyer.