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What to do if your employer won’t accommodate your disability

How would you feel if your employer failed to support you after sustaining a disabling injury? You may have given years of your life to this company only have them fail to support you in your time of need. Working without your employer making proper accommodations can cause your injury to worsen. This is a powerless and helpless place to be.

An Oklahoma woman’s disability discrimination case against the University of Oklahoma is heading to a federal court. The plaintiff alleges that her employer didn't make appropriate accommodations for her disability once they became aware of it. Instead, she alleges that her employer assigned her extra work and faced increased scrutiny on her work. She believes that this retaliation led to her disability worsening. The issue escalated to the point she visited her doctor who excused her from work over her physical and mental health.

The woman had been an employee of the university for 15 years and alleges that she felt her superiors treated her differently once she disclosed her disability in 2016. She would remain employed for one more year until requesting a medical retirement. However, her employer ignored her request despite qualifying for a medical retirement.

She is now suing her former employer for disability discrimination and seeking to recover the amount of disability accommodation, medical retirement and emotional distress.

Accommodation for disabilities is the law

Fortunately, you have protection if you’re in a similar situation. State law prohibits employers from hiring, firing and compensating employees differently based on things like their race, religion, gender, age or disability by the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act. The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to people in these groups unless such compromise would “impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such employer.”

In the case above, it’s not clear whether the University of Oklahoma attempted to make accommodations once they became aware of the disability of the woman mentioned above. That means the university would have to prove they didn’t know the plaintiff had a disability (forcing her to prove she made them aware), prove they attempted to provide accommodations or supply evidence that such accommodations would have posed a hardship to their business.

Whether it’s short term or long term, sustaining a disability is hard. Having a supportive employer can make that easier. However, not every employer treats disabilities properly and that’s why there are laws to protect you from mistreatment.

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