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Federal laws protect those with disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, and the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, are designed to protect individuals with a qualified disability from unfavorable treatment by employers or other entities based on their disability or the history of a disability. Neglecting to provide reasonable accommodations to a person, with the exception of accommodations that may create a significant hardship or expense for the entity or employer, is illegal under federal law. Associational discrimination based upon a close relationship to a disabled individual is also addressed under these laws.

Harassment of a person based upon a disability is also included within the scope of the disability laws. Any offensive behavior that is severe and habitual enough so as to create a hostile working environment is illegal. The law further protects individuals from adverse employment decisions resulting from disability discrimination.

Reasonable accommodations are defined as any modification that would assist a person with a covered disability related to the ability to perform the essential functions of a job or to obtain employment. The exception to this requirement is an accommodation that would impose an "undue hardship" on the employer through expense or excessive difficulty in implementation. A disability is described by the law as a condition, physical or mental, that substantially limits a major life function, or is expected to last more than six months, even if the condition is minor. The definition also includes a person with a history of a disability which has been resolved.

Disability discrimination law is a complex area. Seeking the advice of an attorney who regularly practices in this field may help to assist in ensuring that a disabled person's rights are protected.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Disability Discrimination", October 20, 2014

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