August 17, 2019
When most people picture someone with a physical disability, they picture a person confined to a wheelchair or with missing limbs. Essentially, most people assume that if someone needs a handicap placard on their car, that they should be able to see that person’s disability with the naked eye. However, there are many physical disabilities that are not immediately obvious, and discriminating against employees and/or coworkers with an invisible disability is just as serious as ignoring an obvious disability.
Many conditions can cause chronic yet invisible pain that limits someone’s motion or ability. For example, Lyme Disease can cause chronic joint swelling, muscle pain, and severe fatigue. Lupus targets the immune system and can cause chronic fatigue, and Fibromyalgia causes widespread and sometimes debilitating pain.
It is important for employers to be aware of these invisible disabilities, and to understand the protected rights of their employees. For example, if someone is applying for a job, employers cannot legal ask about the applicant’s disability. All the employer can ask is whether or not the applicant can perform the job with or without reasonable accommodation. More invasive questions are not only uncomfortable, they are illegal. That being said, in order for an employee to be protected under the ADA, they need to have record of substantial impairment, and qualify to perform the essential duties of the job.
As an employer, you are required to provide accommodations for all disabilities, regardless of whether they are immediately visible or noticeable.