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What are your options for handling disability harassment at work?

Living with a disability does not mean living a lesser life than able-bodied individuals. You know your limits and capabilities and do your best to perform your work-related duties well, just like any other Florida employee. Certainly, you may need some accommodations to ensure that you can handle your employment responsibilities properly, but those accommodations do not make you a less important member of the workforce.

Though you know the strengths that you bring to your job, others may not see you as a valuable worker. In fact, you may face discrimination or harassment in the workplace due to your disability. While you may have found ways to ignore and otherwise brush off immature behavior from co-workers, it may reach a point where your workplace no longer feels like a safe or welcoming environment.

Hostile work environment

Various factors could create a hostile work environment, but if you face severe, persistent and pervasive harassment from co-workers, supervisors, or even clients or customers, you may feel intimidated and find the behavior highly offensive. It is important to remember that you do not have to sit back and accept this type of behavior. If you believe you are facing harassment in the workplace, you may want to take the following actions:

  • Keep records of the harassing incidents, including details relating to who was involved, what was done and said, and how you handled the matter.
  • Tell your employer about the harassment by following any policies in your employee handbook or employment agreement relating to making complaints. If no policies exist, file a report with the human resources department or speak with your employer directly.
  • Make it clear to your harasser that you find his or her behavior offensive and that you do not welcome it. Sending this information through email could help create documentation of the exchange, but if you talk to your harasser in person, be sure to create a record of when you talked with him or her and what was said.

In a best-case scenario, your discussion with your harasser would shed light on the situation and make it clear that his or her behavior was inappropriate, leading to an end of the problem. If that does not happen, hopefully your employer would take your complaint seriously and follow proper procedures to effectively address the matter.

What if the problem persists?

In the event that your harasser continues with his or her unwelcome behavior, your employer does not properly handle your complaint and the hostile environment prevails, you may want to explore your legal options. You may have reason to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and possibly file a lawsuit against your employer and other applicable parties.

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