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Workplace harassment of people with disabilities largely goes unreported

| Dec 28, 2020 | Employment Law |

People with disabilities too often find themselves the victims of workplace bullying and harassment that’s not so different from what they experienced when they were children. While it might not be as direct, it can endanger their mental health and hurt their chances for progressing in their careers.

Workplace bullying often is done by those who have authority over the target, like a manager. However, colleagues can be just as guilty and make someone equally miserable.

Bullying vs harassment

People often use these two terms interchangeably. However, bullying isn’t addressed in the law. Harassment is. That’s because by definition it involves unwelcome conduct toward someone because they belong to a group that’s legally protected to the point where it creates a hostile work environment. These protected groups include people with disabilities.

What does harassment of people with disabilities look like?

In one study, nearly a quarter of people with disabilities described the treatment they experienced as harassment or bullying. The examples they cited included being:

  • Excluded from information shared with others
  • Excluded from social gatherings
  • Denied promotions as well as development opportunities
  • Yelled at in front of others (either by supervisors or coworkers)
  • Forced to disclose or discuss their disability
  • Pushed to retire or quit

Not everyone said that this treatment was due to their disability. Some believed it was related to their gender, sexual orientation, age or other characteristic. However, research has shown that employees who belong to two or more marginalized groups (for example, older women with disabilities or gay black men with disabilities) are more likely to suffer workplace harassment than those who belong to one.

You can – and should – report harassment

Most people never report workplace harassment. However, if you don’t report it, there’s little chance of it ending – for you or others in your situation.

If you’re suffering harassment at work because of your disability or any other protected characteristic, it’s wise to document it and report it within your workplace – to your boss or (if they’re the perpetrator or unresponsive to your complaint) to Human Resources.

If that doesn’t solve the problem or if you believe you lost your job due to your disability, it’s a good idea to talk with an experienced attorney to find out what kind of options you have.