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American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). The ADA and WLAD provide protections for disabled people in the workplace. These laws operate in three primary ways. First, the ADA and WLAD prevent employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability. Second, these laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodate for disabled employees that will permit those employees to work. Finally, if you are subject to harassment or a hostile work environment based on your disability, you can bring a claim against your employer.

Disability Discrimination

An employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on any sensory, mental, or physical disability. This means that an employer cannot treat an employee with a disability differently than non-disabled employees in terms of compensation, scheduling, discipline, performance evaluations, etc. If your employer has treated you differently from other employees because you have a disability, you may have a claim for disability discrimination.

Failure to Accommodate

Under state and federal law, employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate disabled employees unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer.

You may have a claim against your employer for failure to accommodate disability if (1) you have a sensory, mental, or physical abnormality that substantially limits your ability to perform your job; (2) you are qualified to perform the essential functions of the job in question; (3) you gave the employer notice of the abnormality and its accompanying substantial imitations; and (4) upon notice, your employer failed to affirmatively adopt measures that were available to the employer and medically necessary to accommodate the disability.

If you think you need an accommodation to be able to perform your job, you should notify your employer. You cannot bring a failure-to-accommodate claim if your employer has no notice of your disability and need for accommodation. It may be necessary for you to provide your employer with some kind of proof or documentation of your disability and the resulting impairment. This is so that you and your employer can work together to determine what kind of accommodation is necessary and workable.

Once you notify your employer of the need for accommodation, then your employer has a duty to work with you to identify a potential accommodation. This may include something as simple as allowing you to sit or stand as needed to alleviate back pain. Or you may need an ergonomic workstation or dictation software. The duty to accommodate may even extend to offering you a new position if you cannot perform your old one due to disability. Your employer’s duty to provide an accommodation is not unlimited, however. Your employer is not required to create a special job for you, or take other measures that would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Hostile Work Environment/Harassment

A third type of claim is harassment or hostile work environment based on disability. If you are being targeted for harassment based on your disability, you may have a claim. To win such a claim, you would need to prove that the harassment or misconduct of other employees was related to your disability, and was severe enough to affect the conditions of your employment.

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