According to statistics released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) earlier this month, disability discrimination complaints were less common nationwide than some other forms of discrimination complaints. The EEOC received more complaints of race discrimination, sex discrimination, and unlawful retaliation than complaints of disability discrimination. In contrast, the Maine Human Rights Commission’s (MHRC) last Annual Report indicated that disability discrimination complaints are by far the most common type of discrimination complaint in Maine. During the period covered by its last Annual Report, the MHRC received twice as many disability discrimination complaints than the next most common type of complaint.
The high number of disability discrimination complaints filed with the MHRC, relative to other types of complaints, may indicate that disability discrimination is the most prevalent form of employment discrimination in Maine. I say it “may” indicate that disability discrimination is the most prevalent form of employment discrimination because (1) we don’t know the percentage of disability discrimination complaints that had merit and (2) the MHRC’s Annual Report lumps all types of disability discrimination complaints together and does not just report how many were employment related, although the vast majority (73.9%) of complaints the MHRC receives are employment related.
One interesting aspect of disability discrimination is that, unlike some other protected traits like race and sex, a disability sometimes affects a person’s ability to do her job. For instance, an employee with cancer may need an accommodation like periodic medical leave from work to undergo treatment. An employer’s failure to provide such an accommodation to an employee with a disability could constitute disability discrimination. For that reason, it is sometimes easier for a disabled employee to realize that his employer has discriminated against him than it is for an employee to realize that his employer has discriminated against him because of his race, sex, or other protected trait.
If you have a disability and your employer has refused to provide you with a reasonable accommodation or has discriminated against you in other ways because of your disability, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.