Do You Know Your Rights in the Workplace?
If you have hearing loss and are employed outside the home you may face discrimination or difficulties on the job. However, employee rights are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so long as you work for either a privately-owned business of 15 or more people, or the federal government.
Be honest about your need for accommodations
The key to protecting your rights is to know what they are and to adhere to legal requirements as an employee. For example, if you need an accommodation for your hearing loss but don’t inform your employer, you cannot later turn around and accuse them of not obeying the ADA. While it may be tempting to keep your condition under wraps ultimately it can hurt you far more than being honest about what you need to maintain optimal job performance.
For example, if your hearing loss progresses to the point you need to wear hearing aids while in a position for which telephone use is a fundamental requirement, you must inform your employer of your change in hearing ability. Then you may ask for either a phone that works with your hearing aid, similar assistive listening device, or request a transfer to a comparable position within the company that doesn’t require heavy phone use (assuming there is an opening and you’re qualified to fill it).
Any accommodation you request must be deemed “reasonable” according to the tenets of the ADA and the requirements of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). We urge workers with hearing loss or who wear hearing aids to read the Questions and Answers about Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act provided on the EEOC’s website for detailed information and guidance.
If you experience discrimination because of your hearing loss you can either contact the EEOC for assistance or reach out to an employment lawyer. Discriminatory acts may include:
- Being passed over for promotions
- Hostile work environment (being harassed about your hearing difficulties)
- Receiving lower compensation than your peers
- Getting fired without a good faith attempt to accommodate your hearing needs
We suggest you wear your hearing aids at work if required and avoid problems that could hurt your success on the job, such as missing important information shared at meetings, during conference calls, or from your manager. Let your boss or other appropriate management know what you need to continue being a valuable employee, and know your rights under the law should they not respond in a reasonable fashion.
NOTE: This information is provided as an overview to let you know that you have rights under the law. It is not intended as formal legal advice.
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