Harassment at the workplace is never acceptable. A workplace should be free from personal attacks. The hearing impaired is not immune to workplace harassment. Current estimates of individuals in the United States that are hearing impaired are at 31.5 million.
Harassment, in general, is someone doing or saying something that make you feel uncomfortable. Harassment can be based on gender, race, disability, age, looks and other criteria. The hearing impaired can be made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace by various means. It can be the refusal of supervisor to provide interpreters, co-workers refusing to write notes, or hostility when trying to teach co-workers sign language. An attorney can best determine if a hearing impaired individual has been subjected to harassment.
There are no federal laws specifically for harassment in the workplace. Rather, harassment at work is outlawed under the following Federal employment discrimination laws and regulations: Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Harassment of the hearing impaired is included under these laws and regulations. A person who is hearing impaired is considered to have a disability under ADA if the condition: 1) substantially limits a major life activity; 2) the condition did limit a past major life activity; or 3) an employer treated an individual as if the condition severely limited a person’s performance. The EEOC determines if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination did occur.
File a complaint with EEOC
Anyone affected by unwelcome discriminatory conduct can file a discrimination charge against a harasser directly through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the assistance of an attorney. The charge must be filed in person or by mail within 180 days of the alleged violation. EEOC then notifies the employer of the charge made by the hearing impaired employee and may request a response as well as information. Mediation by EEOC is sometimes done with the hearing impaired employee, his or her attorney and the employer.
In fact, filing a complaint through an attorney may be the best option because he can write it so that it is more compelling to EEOC’s legal staff. An attorney is better equipped to explain the violation in legal terms. If the issue is not resolved, EEOC may issue a “right to sue” which gives the party charging 90 days to have his or her attorney file a lawsuit. The attorney will advise his client every step of the legal proceedings.
Other Legal Options
There are other legal options for hearing impaired that are being subjected to harassment. If the harasser threatened the individual and the person feels that his or her safety, security or privacy has been jeopardized, there is recourse. Since most states have harassment laws, the hearing impaired, with the assistance of an attorney, can file a restraining order against the harasser. While it is not necessary to have an attorney to file for a restraining order, it is prudent so that the victim’s legal rights are being protected. An attorney also has experience in filling out the necessary forms so it may be a convenience for the victim to have his assistance.