By Jamie Berke, About.com Guide
Sometimes deaf and hard of hearing people face workplace harassment, a form of discrimination on the jobs. Often the workplace harassment is obvious and hurtful but deaf and hard of hearing people may not know what to do about it. That was the situation faced by a deaf woman whose job involves physical labor and whose supervisors and coworkers mistreated her.
Legal Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
Ordinary rude or uncivil behavior towards a deaf employee does not legally qualify as workplace harassment. What does qualify is negative behavior that is "severe" and "pervasive" to the point of creating a hostile or abusive environment. As an example that qualifies, the EEOC cites the fictional case of a man who has lost his hearing and whose co-workers frequently tease him for being deaf.
Legal Cases - Deafness and Workplace Harassment
In the Case of Lily Spencer (plaintiff) vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (defendant) in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Spencer cited incidents that she said resulted in a hostile work environment at Wal-Mart because of her deafness. She claimed there was hostility when she requested interpreters, employees refused to communicate by writing notes, and she was followed too closely. In addition, her son testified in court that her supervisor had called her "stupid." Plus, her efforts to communicate and teach fellow employees sign language was greeted with hostility.
In another case, Mason vs. Wyeth (2006), ordinary teasing and pranks on a deaf employee were not considered harassment because all the hearing employees were also subject to teasing and pranks.
Final Thoughts on Workplace Harassment
Fortunately, I have never experienced workplace harassment. I did once have a supervisor who was not nice to me, but that would not have qualified as workplace harassment. I do know that whenever you face a situation that has legal implications, you should always document things. Documentation is the key to winning a case. I am not a lawyer, and readers who are presently dealing with workplace harassment should consult a lawyer.
Job , Career , Employment
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