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A closer look at disability discrimination in Massachusetts

State and federal laws protect employees from losing their jobs or being otherwise discriminated against based on an actual or perceived disability.

For those who are disabled, daily life can be challenging in a variety of ways. Sadly, many people in Massachusetts who live with disabilities have had to endure illegal discrimination while simply trying to perform their job responsibilities. Unlawful discrimination based on an employee’s disability may manifest in the workplace in various ways. Therefore, it is critical for employers and employees alike to understand which types of behavior violate a worker’s rights.

Defining a disability

In order for disabled employees to secure protection as a qualified person in the state, the Attorney General of Massachusetts states that they must possess sufficient qualifications, such as education and experience and be able to carry out the core responsibilities of their position. Needing a reasonable accommodation will not interfere with a disabled employee’s status as a qualified person.

There are a number of circumstances where employees are considered disabled. For example, those who have AIDS or an HIV infection are covered, even if they do not have any symptoms that are noticeable. If employees have a physical or mental handicap, which limits their ability to perform a major life activity, such as being unable to hear or walk, they are also considered disabled. Furthermore, those who are viewed as handicapped or have dealt with a disability in the past are considered disabled.

Laws protecting disabled employees

Fortunately, there are laws at both the state and federal level, which protect employees from disability discrimination. In the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 151B addresses employment discrimination and protects disabled employees from being subjected to discrimination. The law applies to companies and businesses where there are six or more employees and provides additional protection than what the federal law grants.

A federal law that was passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, also bars employers from discriminating against disabled employees if they have 15 or more on staff. These laws protect people who are employed in both the private and public sector.

Identifying unlawful discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided different examples of unlawful disability discrimination that a covered employee is protected from, including the following:

  • Losing his or her job
  • Experiencing discrimination during the training process
  • Missing out on a promotion
  • The denial of a job opportunity
  • Receiving less compensation for equal work

Additionally, if people can show that they were laid off because they have a disability, they may be able to successfully file a discrimination claim against their employer.

In Boston, and across the entire state, it is vital for employees who think they may have experienced disability discrimination firsthand to immediately review their options. Sometimes, taking legal action is necessary and those subjected to illegal discrimination may benefit from talking with an attorney.

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