Dealing With Health Discrimination At The Workplace? – What Options Do You Have

Posted on Dec 2 2013 - 11:08am by David Drasnin


Health Related Workplace Discrimination – Defining the Problem

Unfortunately discrimination has remained as one of modern society’s incurable plagues. Indeed, notable and admirable efforts have been, and are still being made in order to eradicate, or at least lessen the detrimental effect and impact of discrimination in general, but there is no band aid solution to such a serious problem.

Many countries have strict and clearly worded legislation covering discrimination and the ways to curb, hopefully permanently, this antisocial behaviour. Discrimination comes in many different shapes and forms. For the purpose of the current article, discrimination being a negative social phenomenon will be limited to health related workplace discrimination. Displays of discriminative behaviour, as well as clear discrimination practices can be observed in many working environments, amongst and against people of all walks of life.

Before going any further with this, one must be clearly aware of what exactly is health related, or health based discrimination in the workplace. Health related workplace discrimination is the term used to describe the process of discriminating unfairly between individuals on the basis of certain health and wellbeing issues of physical, psychological and emotional nature, without taking into consideration their actual abilities, performance indicators and employment skill level.

Specifics of Health Related Workplace Discrimination

As already stated in the introduction above, discrimination in general comes in a variety of shapes and forms, some more subtle others more obvious, yet they are all equally harmful and negative to the targeted individual or group of individuals. Health related workplace discrimination can take place on the basis of physical disabilities, mental difficulties, and specific emotional states and misbalances – either temporary or permanent. It is necessary to clarify, that health related workplace discrimination practices can possibly be coming from the employer as well as the staff, or both.

There is no clear cut model or pattern which covers completely and explains why such negative, antisocial displays occur in the workplace, or why individuals or management adhere to such detrimental practices and displays. Nevertheless, the issue still stands and effective ways to curb such negative social examples are in place in the form of regulations and legislation, as well as further legal and financial support for those affected by health related workplace discrimination.

Health related discrimination at work can be refusal to hire a person because of a specific disability or health issue, as well as existing medical conditions. Without advocating for any party, it must be noted though, that certain professions, jobs, duties and tasks require specific physical or mental abilities, which might be possessed and displayed only by a small group, or only a few healthy, or unhealthy individuals. In other words, not all job position refusals can be battled or overturned on the basis of health related discrimination. However, if an employer or a panel of interviewers knowingly rejects the application of a suitable and qualified individual on health related basis, then this is a clear form of health related discrimination.

On the same note, it is illegal for employers to collect preliminary health and medical information about job applicants in order to avoid health related discrimination in the workplace. Health based workplace discrimination can also be any and every action or lack of such, which puts certain individual or group of people in a disadvantaged, degraded or otherwise unfavourable position.

Such situations can range from, schoolyard-like examples of bullying, harassment and verbal abuse of individuals with health issues, to more complex situations where unnecessary hurdles or excessively complex conditions are to be met by an individual with a known health or medical issue as to be prevented from an earned promotion, pay rise or otherwise deterred from moving up through the work ranks.

What Should One Do When Faced or Dealing with Health Related Workplace Discrimination

There are certain legally established ways through which an employee or group of employees can receive justice for suffering health related discrimination in the workplace. In the US, workplace anti-discrimination legislation, along with workers compensation laws and regulations, are the acts which the US Government has devised and implemented to protect and observe the rights of those discriminated against.

It must also be noted though, that the US workers compensation system, as well as the legislation dealing with health related workplace discrimination are applied at per-state basis, however there is also a higher level – Federal legislation covering the issue. If a person is suffering from such discrimination at work, they can seek specialised assistance, and possibly take legal action against the employer if discrimination practices are proven. The main document which outlines and protects the rights of US employees in such situations is the Workers Compensation Act, particularly the section dealing with Discriminatory Action. According to this particular piece of legislation, there are many different forms of health related discrimination in the work place. If a worker has experienced such discrimination at work, they can pursue the matter with a work compensation lawyer, who is basically a legal practitioner dealing with workplace discrimination claims.

However, if a worker is member of a labour union, they can either file their complaint with the respective union, or use the services of a work compensation lawyer, but not both. A work compensation lawyer will review the claim and determine if it has enough substance to stand in court. In order for the lawyer to prepare a valid case, the worker must provide all available details, and proof if possible. If the claim is sufficient, then the lawyer will prepare a case, and inform the employer of the situation taking place.

In many instances, employers can offer an out of court settlement, if guilt is going to be proven. However, an employee and their lawyer can take matters all the way to US Supreme Court if not satisfied with what the employer has offered, or if employer has decided to defend themselves against the claim. Claims against Federal and private sector employers are somewhat different, so one must engage the services of a workers compensation lawyer who is equally proficient in dealing with both.

Photo Credit: Flickr/shino

About the Author

David Drasnin is a freelance writer who is always striving to learn new things and to self-educate himself on a broad range of subjects. Always keeping busy David is currently engaged on multiple projects including working with Paul Stanely - San Diego Bankruptcy Laywer.