Under the law, employers are forbidden from treating an applicant or employee less favorably because he or she has a history of disability (such as cancer that is in remission), or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor. In addition, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to job applicants or employees with disabilities, unless it would cause undue hardship.
Harassment of applicants or employees who have or have had a disability is also illegal. Harassment is deemed illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it causes a hostile or offensive work environment, or results in an adverse employment decision (firing or demotion, for example).
Recently, the EEOC issued revised documents updating the requirements of anti-discrimination laws. The updates cover how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and intellectual disabilities.
The new guidelines take into account the nearly 34 million Americans with epilepsy, diabetes and cancer, and the two million with intellectual disabilities. Many of these Americans are in the workplace, or trying to enter the workplace.
The documents contain changes to the definition of “disability” to make it easier to conclude that people with these diseases and conditions are protected by the ADA. In addition, the documents answer typical employer questions, such as what types of accommodations they must make, how to handle safety issues and whether the employer is allowed to ask employees and applicants about medical issues.
From the EEOC website, the following is a definition of disability:
A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:
- A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
- A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
- A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).