Disability Considered Harassment
If you’re in the workplace, you may be wondering, “When is mocking a disability considered harassment?” The answer depends on the circumstances. First, it must affect the terms and conditions of employment. If the actions are not appropriate for the workplace, they could result in negative job action or a hostile environment. Harassment can take many forms, from co-workers teasing you about your disability to supervisors imitating a speech impairment. Similarly, regular clients may ask you inappropriate questions about your wheelchair use.
If you think you’ve been the victim of disability discrimination-related harassment, contact your employer immediately. While most companies have a formal policy regarding harassment of employees, some don’t. If you’re unsure, consult your employee handbook or contact human resources. You may be able to file a complaint and have it investigated by the EEOC. Filing a charge also preserves your right to file a lawsuit against the offending employer.
The Fourth DCA ruled that the conduct could be deemed harassment if it is “severe, pervasive, and egregious.” The court’s decision does not provide a definitive road map for when this kind of behavior is acceptable. However, it makes clear that employers must investigate complaints thoroughly, take remedial action if appropriate, and avoid putting disabled employees at risk. Further, if you’re the victim of harassment, investigate the situation thoroughly, even if you’re not at fault.
When is Mocking a Disability Considered Harassment?
The EEOC considers this conduct to be unacceptable if the conduct is “severe, pervasive, or extreme.” Fortunately, the EEOC has ruled that if an employee is treated unfairly based on his or her disability, this could be grounds for filing a claim. However, it is important to note that many “teasing” actions are not protected by the EEOC, so employers must take such complaints seriously.
The IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibit discrimination and harassment based on disability. OCR and OSERS enforce these laws. If disability harassment occurs in an educational setting, it is considered disability harassment and may result in denial of FAPE. Individuals or parents can file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and initiate administrative due process procedures. In some cases, the discrimination or harassment is permanent.
The punishment for a hate crime involving harassment is also harsh. The penalty for a first-time offence is one to three years in prison. A second offense is a class 2 felony, and a third offense is a class 3 felony. The punishment for a hate crime can be up to five years in prison. If the offender has a criminal record, their sentence will be doubled.