Do You Have a Case?

A Guide to Employment Discrimination: Disability

Why do you believe the discrimination happened because of your Disability?

  1. Were you denied a request for a reasonable accommodation?
  2. Were derogatory comments made about your disability when the discrimination took place?
  3. Do you know someone who does not have a disability who was treated better than you in the same situation?

NO, none of these sounds like my situation.

YES, at least one of these fits my situation.


What is considered a disability under the law?

The Minnesota Human Rights Act defines disability as "any condition or characteristic that renders a person disabled … a person who has a physical, sensory or mental impairment which materially limits one or more major life activities; has record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment."

A "qualified disabled person" is one who has a disability as defined, and who with reasonable accommodations can perform the essential functions of the job in question. Employers that have 15 or more employees have to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee or applicant.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to enable an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job.

An accommodation can take many different forms: redesigning work space, modifying the work schedule, providing special equipment or furniture, making minor changes to the job duties, providing readers or interpreters, or making facilities accessible might come within the range of accommodations that are needed and reasonable for the employee’s situation.

In what situations is an employer required to make a reasonable accommodation?

If the employer knows there is a disability and the employee requests accommodation, the employer is generally expected to provide what is needed.

The employer has some flexibility in determining just how to accommodate the needs of an employee with a disability; the accommodation must be effective, but it may not be exactly what the employee requested or prefers. The employer is not required to lower performance standards or compromise workplace safety in order to provide an accommodation. If making an effective accommodation would cause the employer an "undue hardship," the employer won’t be required to provide it.

Why are these questions (about the reason for the discrimination) important?

The state Human Rights Act doesn't protect against unfair treatment that happened to a member of a protected class (such as a person of a certain race or sex) — unless that treatment happened because the person was a member of that protected class.

One way to help prove that the treatment happened because you are a member of a protected class is to show that other people who were of a different class (such as a different race or sex) weren't subjected to the same treatment.

But I know what happened and why... can't you take my word for it?

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is a neutral investigative agency. It's our job to impartially investigate charges of discrimination, and determine whether there is "probable cause" to believe that the events a charging party alleges happened — and that they happened because of the charging party's protected class status.

Like any investigative agency, we look for evidence. The more specific information you can give us — including the names of witnesses — the better we can investigate your charge.