Discrimination

Discrimination means you are being treated unfairly or unequally because of your disability. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. There are many ways that an employer can discriminate against you, including:

  • Intentionally not giving you the same job opportunities or benefits as nondisabled coworkers because of your disability, such as
    • A job
    • A promotion
    • A fair salary
  • Failing to prevent a hostile work environment in which disabled employees are treated to offensive behavior and language because of their disabilities
  • Asking disability-related questions or requiring medical examinations before a job offer is made
  • Retaliating against you (getting back at you) because you asserted your rights under the ADA, such as asking for a reasonable accommodation, or participated in the procedures available under the ADA to complain about discrimination. Retaliation can include:
    • Coercion, which means forcing you to do something against your will
    • Intimidation, which means frightening or bullying you to follow the employer’s demands
  • Interfering with your rights, which means making it difficult for you to enjoy the same rights and benefits at work as your nondisabled coworkers

Discrimination Can Be Intentional or Unintentional

Intentional discrimination happens for many reasons. For example, when an employer does not want to pay for your reasonable accommodations or looks down on you because you are disabled, the employer may do something on purpose to you that is unfair.

Unintentional discrimination usually happens because an employer evaluates or promotes employees in a way that puts disabled people at a disadvantage. The employer usually does not mean to discriminate and does not realize that certain actions or practices are discriminatory.

Example

An employer hiring heavy equipment operators requires job applicants to take a written test. If a job applicant with dyslexia takes the test, he could be denied the job because he has difficulty reading. This would be unintentional discrimination, because the ability to perform on a written exam is not an important skill for operating heavy machinery. The practice of requiring the written exam puts an entire group at an unfair disadvantage due to their disability. If an exam is necessary, the employer must offer the test in an alternate format that would best accommodate the applicant.

The ADA makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a person with a disability or a nondisabled person who filed a complaint, gave evidence, or otherwise participated in an investigation to enforce the ADA.

How Do I File a Complaint?

If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you can file a discrimination claim (called a “charge”) either with Arizona’s Civil Rights Division (ACRD) of the attorney general’s office or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

ACRD and EEOC contact information

To file a charge with the ACRD, contact the nearest office below. Persons living outside of Tucson or Phoenix may have their information taken by phone and the charge mailed to them to sign.

Phoenix:
Office of the Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
2005 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004-2926
Phone: 602-542-5263 or 602-542-5002 (TTY)
Toll-free: 1-877-491-5742 or 1-877-624-8090 (TTY)
Fax: 1-602-542-8885

Tucson:
Office of the Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
400 West Congress, S-215
Tucson, AZ 85701-1367
Phone: 520-628-6500 or 520-628-6872 (TTY)
Toll-free: 1-877-491-5740 or 1-877-881-7552 (TTY)
Fax: 1-520-628-6765

To file a discrimination charge through the EEOC, you can contact any EEOC office located in cities throughout the U.S. or call EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 or 1-800-669-6820 (TTY). The EEOC Phoenix district office is at:

3300 North Central Ave, Suite 690
Phoenix, AZ 85012-2504
Toll-free: 1-800-669-4000 or 1-800-669-6820 (TTY)
Fax: 1-602-640-5071

The EEOC’s website includes good information about how the actual process of filing a complaint works.

How Do I File a Lawsuit?

Private lawsuits are an option, but you cannot file a lawsuit until after the EEOC or ACRD has investigated your charge and given you a notice that is called “a right to sue” letter.

You have to file your discrimination charge within a certain amount of time or you lose your right to sue. To file your charge with the Arizona Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division (ACRD), you have to do so within 180 days from the date the discrimination took place. To file your complaint under the ADA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you have to do so within 300 days of the date you were discriminated against. However, don’t wait for the deadline to get too close. When you visit the ACRD or the EEOC to file your charge, they will assist you in filing under both laws and supplying a copy of your charge to the other agency.

If you have been discriminated against and the EEOC or ACRD decides in your favor, they will attempt to get the employer to voluntarily comply with the law and supply you with relief to compensate you for the discrimination. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this means you may be entitled to get hired, get back pay, or get reasonable accommodations. If the employer refuses, the EEOC and the ACRD may choose to file a lawsuit. If the agencies do not file a lawsuit, you have the right to file your own lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA). In your lawsuit, you can ask for back pay, getting your job back, a reasonable accommodation, and other types of relief.

Filing a Complaint if You Work for the Federal Government

The ADA does not apply to employees of the federal government. However, the federal government has to follow a very similar law called the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you work for or are applying for a job with the federal government and think that you have been discriminated against because you have a disability, you cannot file your complaint with the EEOC. Instead, you need to file a complaint with the federal agency the employer is part of. For a brief article explaining this process, click here.

Protection and Advocacy

You can also contact your state’s Protection and Advocacy center when you have questions or problems with reasonable accommodations at work or when you think you are being treated unfairly because of your disability. Arizona’s Protection and Advocacy organization is the Arizona Center for Disability Law. Social Security also has a page describing what Protection and Advocacy can and can’t help with.