Discrimination at Work: Understanding Your Child’s Rights

At a glance

  • Federal law protects your child from being discriminated against at work because of a disability.

  • These legal protections can cover ADHD and learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

  • Your child is protected only if her employer knows about her disability.

When your child starts working, there’s a chance she may run into discrimination. Thankfully, federal law protects qualified employees from being denied a raise, assignment, promotion or other work opportunities because of their disability.

Many learning and thinking differences like and can qualify as disabilities. But your child is protected only if her employer knows about her condition. Also, your child has to be qualified—meaning she must have the skills and ability to do the job.

Laws That Protect Against Discrimination

If a qualified worker is laid off, demoted, paid less or denied work opportunities because of her disability, that might be discrimination. If the employer doesn’t provide a reasonable accommodation so that your child can perform the job, that also might constitute discrimination.

The federal laws in this area overlap a bit. Here are the two most important ones:

  • (ADA): This law protects people with disabilities from discrimination at work. It applies to any private employer with 15 or more employees. ADA also applies to any temporary employment agencies. Also covered are state and local governments, and all public and most private schools—plus colleges and testing agencies.

  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Different sections of this law ban discrimination based on disability throughout the federal government. Section 501 applies to federal agencies. Section 503 applies to companies that do business with the federal government. Section 504 bars discrimination for any program or organization that gets federal funds. This last category is large and covers public schools as well as many private schools and colleges.

How to Take Action

If your child feels she was discriminated against at work, she can take action. She can file a complaint at an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office near where she lives. The EEOC is the federal agency in charge of enforcing laws like the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

Your child must file her complaint within 180 days from the date when she was discriminated against because of her disability. The EEOC will investigate, and if it finds there was discrimination, it can take a lot of actions in your child’s favor.

“Federal law protects qualified employees from being denied a raise, assignment, promotion or other work opportunities because of their disability.”

For example, if your child was fired, the EEOC can force the employer to rehire her. It can also make the employer give her benefits, back pay and even a promotion. Legal costs and financial awards are possible as well.

If the EEOC finds there was no discrimination and dismisses the complaint, your child has 90 days to file a lawsuit in court if she wants pursue the case.

In addition to federal law, some states have their own laws banning discrimination based on disability. Check with your state government to find out if your child has additional rights.

Knowing that the law protects workers from discrimination can be a big help. Learn more about how to help your child get a job. Read about the pros and cons of disclosing a disability at work, and explore resources that can help your child request workplace accommodations.

Key takeaways

  • Disability discrimination laws apply to private businesses with at least 15 employees, as well as all public employers.

  • Your child can file a workplace discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • If your child files a complaint, she must do so promptly.


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