Workplace harassment based on disability is illegal, yet it still happens far too often. Harassment can take many forms, from overt abuse to more subtle acts that create a hostile environment. Recognizing the signs of disability harassment is the first step toward advocating for your rights.
There are some common signs of disability harassment that you should watch for.
Verbal abuse is a common form of disability harassment. You might experience slurs, insults and derogatory language about your disability. In other cases, coworkers or supervisors could make jokes or mocking comments about your disability. You might even experience some instances of threats, intimidation or yelling.
Exclusion and isolation
In some cases, disability harassment is more subtle. You might find yourself excluded from or denied access to meetings or events as a result of your disability. Coworkers or supervisors could potentially withhold information necessary for you to do your job, and you might experience isolation and feeling ignored.
Sometimes the harassment takes a more direct, blatant approach. You might experience sabotage, including someone damaging or hiding accommodation equipment, such as wheelchairs, magnifiers or chairs. A coworker might deliberately trigger flashing lights or loud sounds. You might also experience direct undermining of your requests for reasonable accommodations.
When coworkers or others in the workplace violate your personal space, physically block your path or create a barricade that interferes with your maneuverability, that could constitute harassment as well. Unwanted touching, not only of you but also of a service animal or mobility device, may also be harassment.
According to the EEOC’s litigation data, disability-related claims made up more than 36% of the claims the agency processed in 2020. If you see any of these behaviors in your workplace, document as much as possible to support the case. No employee should have to endure a hostile environment due to disability.