Did your boss shut you out of an essential business meeting because you requested an ASL interpreter?

Does your co-worker repeatedly make snide comments about your wheelchair taking up “too much space”?

Or maybe your supervisor refused to give you time off to see your doctor for an established auto-immune disorder.

These are all examples of disability discrimination in the workplace, and they are all illegal.

In today’s federal work environment, diversity and inclusion are vital to creating an atmosphere of value and respect. Unfortunately, workplace disability discrimination still occurs, often undermining these feelings and violating federal workers’s rights. However, identifying this insidious treatment is a solid first step to combating it.

Keep reading to learn about federal anti-discrimination laws and see examples of disability discrimination in the workplace. If you’re experiencing disability discrimination firsthand, reach out to us. Our federal employment discrimination lawyers can answer your most pressing questions, review your claim, and work with you to hold your employer accountable for their unlawful and damaging actions.  

Get started with a consultation by calling (800) 801-0598 or reaching us online today.

What Is Disability Discrimination in the Workplace?

Discrimination against disabled employees occurs when employers treat them unfavorably due to their disability. This treatment can encompass various areas of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or job condition.

Disability discrimination can also take the form of harassment, which might include offensive remarks or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It’s essential to recognize that disability discrimination doesn’t only affect employees with physical disabilities; it also pertains to mental health conditions and perceived disabilities.

What Federal Laws Protect Employees with Disabilities?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a landmark law prohibiting employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, including recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, and other employment-related activities.

The ADA broadly defines disability as covering physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities, a history of such impairments, or being regarded as having such impairments.

Under the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including adjustments such as flexible work hours, special equipment, or modified duties, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is significant for federal employees. Section 501 of the Act requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by federal agencies of the executive branch. Additionally, Section 504 protects disabled employees from discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Other Relevant Laws

Other important laws include:

Federal laws can be confusing to parse out and apply. However, a skilled federal employment discrimination attorney can explain them, help you determine whether your employer violated your rights, and walk you through your options.


“A change in leadership brought me the worst of luck with a suddenly very hostile work environment, but pure serendipity led me to Pines Federal. I am so lucky to have found Pines Federal which not only has considerable expertise in federal employee cases, but also has the compassion to recognize the emotional impact on their clients.”

– Jennifer H.

What Are Common Examples of Disability Discrimination in the Workplace?

Discrimination against disabled employees manifests in numerous ways, from nuanced to obvious. The following are common disability harassment examples and disability discrimination examples occurring in federal workplaces.

Discrimination Through Segregation

Assigning employees with disabilities to certain positions or career tracks or physically isolating them from other employees because of their disability is discrimination through segregation. Similarly, deliberately excluding employees with disabilities from essential meetings or projects that are relevant to their position constitutes discrimination.

Differential Treatment in Training and Development

Denying employees with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the same training provided to other employees—whether outright or by failing to provide needed accommodations—is a form of discrimination. For example, hosting webinars that lack closed-captioning for a deaf employee or disseminating employee manuals lacking braille for visually impaired employees constitutes differential treatment.

Discriminatory Policies and Procedures

Enforcing leave policies that fail to consider an employee’s medical treatment or rehabilitation needs or not consenting to leave as a reasonable accommodation are examples of discriminatory policies. As with differential treatment, failing to provide accessible technology or communication tools for disabled employees, such as screen reader software or TTY services, is another type of procedural discrimination.

Harassment as Discrimination

Supervisors or colleagues who intimidate or bully a disabled employee based on their disability may be guilty of disability harassment. Furthermore, repeated offensive remarks, jokes, or comments about a person’s disability can lead to a hostile work environment.

Denial of Equal Benefits and Privileges of Employment

Failing to provide equal pay, benefits, and privileges, such as offering health insurance that fails to cover medical needs related to a disability, which other plans cover for non-disabled employees, equals discrimination. Another example of a denial of equal benefits is when employers fail to ensure that work facilities, such as break rooms, restrooms, or fitness centers, are accessible to disabled employees.


Punitive job actions such as demotion, reassignment to a less desirable position, or reduction in hours after an employee requests an accommodation or files a complaint are examples of illegal retaliation. Excluding employees from advancement opportunities because they engaged in protected activities like reporting discrimination also constitutes retaliation.

Constructive Discharge

Creating or allowing a work environment so intolerable that a disabled employee feels they have no choice but to resign is known as constructive discharge.

How Do I Know If I Have a Disability Discrimination Case?

Recognizing when you have a valid case of disability discrimination can be challenging. 

Here are a few indicators:

  • Behavioral patterns—if you experience consistent differences in treatment compared to your colleagues without disabilities, this may be a red flag;
  • Failure to accommodate—if you’ve requested a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act and your employer refused you without a legitimate business reason, this could be a clear case of discrimination; and
  • Retaliation—if you face adverse action after requesting an accommodation or reporting discrimination, you may be experiencing retaliation, which is illegal.

If you believe you’re facing disability discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you can file a complaint. Federal employees can usually file complaints with their agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor. However, consulting with an experienced attorney at Pines Federal first will ensure you file correctly and meet all statutory deadlines. We can also review your case, assist in collecting evidence, and help you determine your potential next steps, ensuring your rights are protected.

Our Federal Employment Discrimination Lawyers Will Fight for Your Disability Rights

At Pines Federal, we are your unwavering champions in the fight against disability discrimination in the federal workplace. We understand that facing disability discrimination can be an overwhelming experience. That’s why we do more than just offer legal representation; we partner with you, fully invested in securing the justice and fair treatment you deserve.

As a federal employee, you have the right to a workplace free from discrimination. When your employer violates this right, you need allies knowledgeable and deeply experienced in federal employment law. Our team of dedicated lawyers, with over six decades of collective experience in federal employment law alone, is uniquely equipped to stand by your side.

As relentless advocates, we’ve earned the trust and respect of our peers. Moreover, our superior Avvo rating and the honor of being named Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters testify to our commitment to fighting for you. Call (800) 801-0598 or contact us online for a consultation—together, we can work to hold your employer accountable.