Is disability discrimination only illegal for current impairments?

Among the types of discrimination that federal law bans in the workplace is disability discrimination. Under this prohibition, one of the things covered employers are banned from doing is taking discriminatory employment actions against an employee because the employee has a mental or physical impairment that puts a substantial limitation on a major life activity.

However, an employee does not have to currently have a significant impairment to be a victim of illegal workplace disability discrimination.

For one, employees are also protected from discrimination based on a major impairment they used to have, as history of a disability is among the things covered employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees for having.  

Illegal disability discrimination can even occur against employees who do not actually have, and have never actually had, a disabling impairment. This is because federal law also protects employees from being discriminated against because their employer believes that they have a non-transitory, non-minor impairment. This protection applies regardless of whether the employee actually has the impairment.

As this illustrates, there is a truly wide range of employees that could potentially suffer illegal disability discrimination. Whether a worker is disabled, was disabled or has never been disabled, when they believe their employer has taken discriminatory action against them on the basis of disability, they should consider consulting an experienced employment law attorney. Such attorneys can help workers with looking into whether illegal disability discrimination has occurred. They can also assist workers with pursuing legal claims over illegal disability discrimination.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Disability Discrimination," Accessed March 3, 2016

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