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Discrimination On The Basis Of Disability

Discrimination against a disabled employee in the workplace is illegal. However, what constitutes disability discrimination? And what are the distinctions between them? We illustrate with examples.


What is discrimination based on disability?

Discrimination against disabled people occurs when they are treated unfairly or placed at a disadvantage as a result of their disability. For instance, excluding someone with a disability from employment because you do not want disabled people to work for you.

However, how is disability defined in law? According to the Equality Act, a disability is defined as a physical or mental condition that significantly impairs your ability to carry out daily activities. This includes sitting in a chair or using a computer.

HIV, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are all considered disabilities under the law. It begins protecting people from discrimination the moment they receive a diagnosis.

Additionally, the law covers previous disabilities. Therefore, if you previously had a mental health condition that met the definition, but no longer do, the law still protects you from discrimination.


What are the various forms of discrimination against disabled people?

Discrimination against disabled people can take six different forms.

1. Direct discrimination: When an employee is treated less favorably than other employees due to their disability.

2. Indirect discrimination: When a practice, policy, or rule is implemented that applies equally to all employees, but has a disproportionate impact on some employees due to their disability.

3. Failure to make reasonable accommodations: When an employer fails to make reasonable practical accommodations to assist a disabled employee in the workplace.

4. Discrimination based on a disability: When someone is treated unfavorably as a result of their disability.

5. Harassment: When an employee is treated in such a way that they feel humiliated or offended. This includes addressing them by their given names or making jokes about their disability.

6. Victimization: When you treat an employee poorly because they have filed a discrimination complaint against you or are advocating for someone who has.


Discrimination on an explicit basis

Sarah attends a job interview and discloses that she suffers from multiple sclerosis. The employer declines to hire Sarah, despite the fact that she is the best candidate, on the grounds that she will require extensive time off from work.

Sarah may have a case for direct disability discrimination if she was denied employment solely due to her disability.


Discrimination in an indirect manner

Sam posts an advertisement for a teacher position. The advertisement states that all applicants must possess a valid driver’s license due to the teacher’s responsibilities at two schools. Claire wishes to apply but is unable to due to her epilepsy.

Claire may assert an indirect disability discrimination claim, claiming that this rule disadvantages her as a result of her disability. She could argue that a driver’s license is not required for this position in the same way that a bus driver’s license is. Employers, on the other hand, are not automatically liable if they can objectively justify their decision to implement something that constitutes indirect discrimination.


Inability to make reasonable accommodations

John is at risk of being laid off as a result of his employer’s reorganization of his team. He is also eligible to apply for other positions within the company and is interviewed.

Because John is undergoing cancer treatment, his employer allows him to choose the date and time of the interview and states that he is free to take breaks or terminate the interview at any time. However, John does not perform well during the interview, and another candidate is hired.

John has the option of bringing his case to an employment tribunal. This is because John’s cancer treatment had an effect on his interview performance. He could argue that his employer did not make reasonable accommodations for him, such as assessing him without interviewing him.


Discrimination on the basis of a disability

George’s place of employment provides an annual bonus to all employees. George will not receive his bonus this year as a result of his employer issuing a formal warning regarding his sick leave. He was unable to work due to depression.

This may be a case of disability discrimination, as George’s employer treated him poorly as a result of his disability.


Discrimination on the basis of disability

Katie, who has Tourette’s syndrome, becomes enraged when her manager makes light of her vocal tics. She has previously mentioned this to her manager, but he has shunned her, claiming she is too sensitive.

Katie might assert that her manager is harassing her due to her disability. Particularly because her manager continues to make jokes despite her repeated warnings that they are offensive.



Ben files a complaint against his employer alleging disability discrimination. His employer has threatened to dismiss him unless he withdraws this complaint.

This could be a case of victimisation, as Ben’s employer is treating him poorly as a result of his disability discrimination complaint.