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Disability Questions

Applies to employees

Q. What protections do I have at work if I am a person with a disability?

You have the right to not be discriminated against.  You can request reasonable accommodations in the job application process.  On the job, as long as you are able to do your job, with or without a reasonable accommodation, you are protected.  If you request a reasonable accommodation in order to do your job, your employer needs to enter into an interactive process with you to determine a reasonable accommodation.  Your co-workers and managers are prohibited from harassing you because of your disability.

Q. When do I have to discuss a medical condition with my employer?

When you request a reasonable accommodation for a medical condition, be prepared to provide medical information.  If your work performance has declined due to a medical reason, your employer may request information about your medical condition as it relates to your ability to do your job.  This medical information is protected by privacy laws.

Q. Should I inform a potential employer about my disability during an interview?

This is up to you, but you are not required to disclose that you are a person with a disability.  An employer cannot ask about disabilities during an interview or on an application.

Q. How can I request a reasonable accommodation?

The best way to request a reasonable accommodation is to put the request in writing, or obtain a note from your doctor stating the request.  Present the request to your manager or to the human resources department.  The request must relate to your disability, must assist you in doing your job, or must lower barriers to your performance of your job. 

Q. What should happen after I request a reasonable accommodation?

You and your employer should enter into an “interactive process” – that is, you both participate in a discussion about potential accommodations.  The employer may accept the request, might offer other suggestions, or might need further medical information.  You need to be an active participant in the process, and provide necessary medical information.  Do not stop taking part in this process.

Q. I recently interviewed for a position and they offered me a job contingent upon me passing a physical. Can they do that?

Yes. An employer can offer a job based upon passing a physical exam that they pay for. The employer needs to follow the same procedure for all similar jobs. The employer can ensure that the new person can accomplish the job with or without a change at work.

Q. What kind of protection do I have at work if I have some kind of disability?

People with disabilities are protected at work as long as they can do the job. Protections include the right for to be considered for a job. Employers need to provide a reasonable accommodation if possible. But only if the reasonable accommodation helps the person do the job.

Someone with a disability should not be treated badly while at work. People making jokes about the person with a disability are not allowed. If someone has a disability they need to get the same pay as others. Someone with a disability should also get all of the other benefits other people get. If someone needs help at work the boss needs to give help.

The boss is not supposed to treat people badly if someone asks for help. If someone asks for help and doesn’t get the help then tells the boss they don’t like it, that person is protected too.

Q. What can I expect from my employer when I ask them for a reasonable accommodation?

The basic idea is that the employer and employee enter into some kind of back and forth talk where both parties share information. The employee needs to tell the employer what exact change in the work environment needs to happen. Remember the change needs to help the employee get the job done. The employer can both accept the request of the employee and make the change. Or the employer can ask for a medical opinion about the requested changes.

The employer should ask for a medical opinion before making a decision. The employer needs correct knowledge about the employees’ disability and what parts of the job need to change. The medical person needs to have a job description for the employee’s job. This way the medical provider can make an informed comment.

The employer should review the medical provider’s comment before it decides what work change is available for the employee. The employer decides what change is reasonable. The employer is not required to accept the requested change. A decision should be made using all available facts.

Q. When can my employer ask me about my medical condition?

Generally anytime the boss notices a change in work quality or quantity. The questions should only be about things that change the worker’s ability to get the job done. If there is a medical condition that makes it hard for the worker to do the job then this is the time to tell the boss.

The employer then should ask the medical person for facts to help the worker get the job done. The employer should not ask about medical details not related to the worker getting the job done.

Q. Do I have to provide my employer information about my medical condition?

Yes, you may be asked to provide medical facts if it is about your request for a change in your work situation. Unless other laws say the medical provider can’t tell the employer the information can be shared. The questions should only be about the medical problem that causes the work change request. Of course privacy laws also cover what the employer may do with this information.

Q. Do I have to tell the people interviewing me for a job that I have a medical condition that doesn’t impact my ability to get the job done?

The only information you share in a job interview should be about your ability to get the job done. Therefore, unless your medical condition needs a change at work it should not be brought up.

Q. If I need my trained service animal at work to help me get the job done can my employer deny me my request to use the animal at work?

The use of a trained service animal at work is the same as any other work change request and must be considered. However, there are some things here that may not apply in other situations. The animal needs to assist the employee to get the job done.

During the interactive process it may be decided that there is another way to help the worker get the job done. One example is for the worker to work from home. Generally the use of a trained service animal by the worker should be approved.

A request to use a trained service animal at work can be refused if the animal’s actions are an unreasonable risk to people or property.

If the animal is only a risk in a small part of the work place it cannot be removed from the whole work place. The risk needs to be direct or reasonably probable. The risk cannot be because someone is afraid of the animal without reason.

The owner is responsible for the behavior of the animal. Bad behavior by the animal is a reason to deny the request.

Q. My supervisor said my chiropractor isn’t a doctor so she didn’t have to obey the chiropractor’s note about light duty. Isn’t my chiropractor’s note enough to get me light duty?

Washington law allows for any licensed health care provider to ask for changes at work. This allows a chiropractor to restrict someone to light duty. As long as the state licenses someone to identify the medical problem then they qualify to request changes at work.

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