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Workers with disabilities face many challenges

People with disabilities can find it extremely difficult to find work in Pennsylvania and around the country, and those who are able to secure a job are often treated unfairly and earn about $1,000 less per month than workers without disabilities. The unemployment rate among working-age people with disabilities is a worryingly high 70 percent, and claims of disability-related workplace bias reached an all-time high of 28,073 in 2016, according to figures from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC is tasked with enforcing the nation's workplace discrimination laws, and the federal agency secured more than $135 million in compensation for 5,540 workers with disabilities in 2017. Employers may avoid potential sanctions by providing ergonomic tools and allowing workers who must overcome physical challenges more time to perform tasks. However, reasonable accommodations like these are rare, and this is especially true at smaller companies.

This is because private-sector employers with less than 15 workers are not subject to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Not only does this mean that smaller companies are not required to install wheelchair ramps or make other accommodations for workers with disabilities, but they are also permitted to refuse to hire an individual in the first place simply because they have a disability.

Attorneys with experience in workplace discrimination cases may urge workers who have been treated unfairly to speak with an attorney before abandoning hopes of pursuing civil remedies. This is because state lawmakers sometimes see fit to provide more generous workplace protections than their counterparts in the nation's capital. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits workplace discrimination based on disability, and the landmark 1995 law applies to employers with as few as four workers.

Source: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, "The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act", accessed on April 20, 2018

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