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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work

Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about disability discrimination.

  1. What are some examples of disability harassment?
  2. Are all medical conditions covered by the laws enforced by EEOC?
  3. Can my employer discriminate against me because I have a past history of a disability?
  4. Am I protected from discrimination if my employer thinks I have a disability, but I am not actually disabled?
  5. Should I tell my employer that I have a disability?
  6. What should I do if I need to request a workplace change because of my disability?
  7. Can someone else request a workplace change for me?
  8. Does my employer have to grant every request I make for a workplace change because of my disability?
  9. Can my employer ask me for medical information once I ask for a workplace change because of my disability?
  10. When can a person with a disability request a workplace change?
  11. What are some common workplace changes that can be made for people with disabilities?
  12. Do I have to pay for any workplace changes needed because of my disability?
  13. Does my employer have to make non-work areas used by employees, such as cafeterias or lounges, accessible to me if I have a disability?
  14. Does my employer have to make training accessible to me if I have a disability?
  15. Can an employer ask whether I have a disability when I apply for a job?
  16. Can my employer require me to take a medical exam after offering me a position?
  17. Can my employer ask me medical questions or require me to take a medical exam once I begin working?
  18. Is my employer required to keep my medical information private?
  19. Can my employer discriminate against or harass me if I have a friend or parent with a disability?
  20. My employer fired me because it said my disability posed a health risk. Do the EEOC's rules allow this?
  21. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is disability discrimination?
  22. Are any other rights available to employees with a medical condition?

What are some examples of disability harassment?

Disability harassment involves unwelcome and offensive conduct in the workplace that is based on a person’s disability. Disability harassment can include negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person’s disability or need for a workplace change, and other verbal or physical conduct based on a person's disability.


Are all medical conditions covered by the laws enforced by EEOC?

No. Not all medical conditions are covered by the laws enforced by EEOC. However, Congress recently passed a new law, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, that makes it easier for a person to establish that he or she has a medical condition covered by the law. Based on the changes made by this law, it will be easier for people with a variety of medical conditions to show that they have disabilities. For example, conditions such as deafness, blindness, intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, major depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder should easily be found to be disabilities. Many other conditions are covered as well.  Even with this new law, determining whether disability discrimination has occurred can be complicated. You should call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 if you think the law may have been violated


Can my employer discriminate against me because I have a past history of a disability?

No. Your employer may not discriminate against you because you had a disability in the past, even if you no longer have the condition or if the condition does not currently involve any serious limitations. For example, your employer may not refuse to hire you because you have a past history of a mental illness.


Am I protected from discrimination if my employer thinks I have a disability, but I am not actually disabled?

Yes. In general, your employer may not discriminate against you because it believes that you have a disability, even if you are not currently disabled or never were disabled. For example, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a soldier who recently returned home from combat because the employer believes that the soldier has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is true even if the soldier does not have, or has never had, PTSD.

There is one exception to this rule. An employer will not be held responsible for discriminating against you because of a disability that is minor (not serious) and that lasts or is expected to last for six months or less.


Should I tell my employer that I have a disability?

If your disability will not affect your ability to apply for a job or to perform your job, you do not have to tell your employer. However, if you think you will need a workplace change to apply for a job or to perform a job, you should tell your employer that you have a disability that requires a workplace change.


What should I do if I need to request a workplace change because of my disability?

You have a responsibility to let your employer know that you need a workplace change because of your disability. Your request does not need to be in writing, but you must provide your employer with enough information so that your employer knows that you have a disability and need some type of workplace change.


Can someone else request a workplace change for me?

Yes. Someone else, such as a family member or doctor, may tell your employer that you need a workplace change because of a disability. The request does not need to be in writing, but the person must provide your employer with enough information so that your employer knows that you have a disability and need some type of workplace change.


Does my employer have to grant every request I make for a workplace change because of my disability?

No. However, your employer must carefully consider each request and whether it would be possible. An employer might not have to grant your request if it would cause a serious problem for the employer, meaning that it would be too costly or very disruptive to the workplace, given the employer’s size, financial resources and nature of its business. In addition, your employer does not have to grant your request for a workplace change if you do not have a current medical condition or a past medical condition that causes you to currently need a workplace change.


Can my employer ask me for medical information once I ask for a workplace change because of my disability?

Yes. If your disability is not obvious, your employer may ask you for information about your disability. Your employer may also ask your doctor(s) for this information.

If your disability is obvious or you have already given your employer information to show that you have a disability, your employer may still be able to ask about the kinds of limitations you have if it isn’t clear why you need the workplace change you’ve requested. 

However, your employer may not ask you about your family medical history (whether your relatives have medical conditions) or other questions related to genetic information. Your employer also may not ask for this information from your doctor or other health care providers.


When can a person with a disability request a workplace change?

You can make a request for a workplace change at any time during the application process or during your employment. It is best to ask an employer for a workplace change as soon as you know that you need one.


What are some common workplace changes that can be made for people with disabilities?

Some common types of workplace changes include making facilities used by employees accessible (such as adding a ramp); providing readers or sign language interpreters; obtaining special equipment or modifying existing equipment (such as special telecommunications devices for people who are deaf); changing work schedules; permitting the use of leave for treatment, recuperation or therapy; and modifying company exams, training materials or policies.

These are only a few examples, but there are many other types of changes that an employer may have to provide. If you need help identifying the workplace change that you need, contact the Job Accommodation Network, a free service that helps identify workplace changes for people with disabilities.


Do I have to pay for any workplace changes needed because of my disability?

No. The laws enforced by EEOC require that your employer provide the requested change unless it would pose a serious problem for your employer.


Does my employer have to make non-work areas used by employees, such as cafeterias or lounges, accessible to me if I have a disability?

Yes. The requirement to provide workplace changes covers all services, programs, and non-work facilities provided by your employer. If making an existing facility accessible would be too burdensome, your employer must provide a comparable facility, unless this also would cause a serious problem for your employer.


Does my employer have to make training accessible to me if I have a disability?

Yes. The requirement to provide workplace changes covers all services, programs, and non-work facilities provided by your employer. For example, if your employer plans on holding a training session at an offsite location that is not accessible, it must try to make the location accessible or relocate the training so that you can attend and participate with your co-workers, unless this would cause a serious problem for your employer.


Can an employer ask whether I have a disability when I apply for a job?

No. An employer may not ask job applicants if they have a disability or seek information about the nature or severity of a disability. An employer also may not require job applicants to take a medical examination.

However, if you have a disability which is obvious or which you told the employer about, the employer may ask if you will need a reasonable workplace change during the hiring process. For example, if you have a hearing impairment, the employer may need to provide a sign language interpreter during your interview. The employer may also ask if you will need a reasonable workplace change to perform the job if the employer reasonably believes that your disability will interfere with your ability to do the job. Finally, the employer may ask you to voluntarily state that you are an individual with a disability for the purposes of an affirmative action program.


Can my employer require me to take a medical exam after offering me a position?

Yes. Your employer may require you to take a medical exam or answer medical questions once it has offered you a job as long as it requires all applicants offered the job, and not just applicants with disabilities, to do so. However, your employer may not ask you about your family medical history (whether your relatives have medical conditions) or other questions related to genetic information during this medical exam.


Can my employer ask me medical questions or require me to take a medical exam once I begin working?

Generally speaking, your employer should not ask you medical questions or require you to take a medical exam once you begin working. Your employer may make this request if it has legitimate reasons to suspect that your poor job performance or unacceptable conduct has a medical basis. Your employer also may make this request if it has legitimate reasons to suspect that you may pose a high risk of serious harm to yourself or others. However, your employer may not ask you about your family medical history (whether your relatives have medical conditions) or other questions related to genetic information. Your employer also may not ask for this information from your doctor or other health care providers.


Is my employer required to keep my medical information private?

Yes. Your employer must keep any medical information you share confidential. This means that your employer should not discuss your medical information with others. There are very limited exceptions to this confidentiality requirement.  For example, your employer may not share your medical information with co-workers, but may share relevant information with a supervisor who needs the information to provide you with a workplace change. Medical information may also be shared with medical personnel who may need to provide you with emergency treatment. There are separate rules regarding the very limited situations in which employers may share your genetic information.


Can my employer discriminate against or harass me if I have a friend or parent with a disability?

No. The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer from treating you differently or harassing you because your friends, parents, or other people you associate with have a disability. For example, an employer cannot refuse to promote you because your brother, who works for the same company, requested a workplace change because he is deaf.


My employer fired me because it said my disability posed a health risk. Do the EEOC's rules allow this?

The laws enforced by EEOC allow employers to refuse to hire applicants, or to transfer or fire employees, who pose a high risk of serious harm to themselves or others. An employer cannot make this determination based on speculation or fear. In fact, an employer must meet very specific requirements to prove that a person’s disability poses a high risk of serious harm. You should call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 for more information.


Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is disability discrimination?

No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.


Are any other rights available to employees with a medical condition?

Employees with a medical condition may have additional rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides certain employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. The FMLA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor.