Handling Workplace Discrimination Against Deaf and HOH

For a deaf or hard of hearing person, sometimes getting a job is only half the battle. The other half of the battle can be dealing with discrimination on the job itself. (It is discrimination only if the treatment is based on something that is protected by law, such as your hearing loss). What are your options for handling this discrimination and improving your chances of keeping your job? Here are some suggestions.

Woman and man sitting at table signing the word 'mortgage' in American Sign Language
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Options for Handling Discrimination

  • Document, document, document! Be sure to put down the date of discrimination, the time of discrimination, where the discrimination happened, exactly what happened, etc. This documentation will be critical if you need to take legal action.
  • Go to your company or agency's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office if the company or agency has one. It is the EEO office's job to assist in situations involving discrimination.
  • Make sure that you know your legal rights. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act state what is legally protected.
  • Complain to your company or agency's Human Resources department. Sometimes the HR office can help.
  • File a report with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC homepage has a section on filing charges. In addition, there is a page on disability discrimination. Another page with ADA charge statistics table has a row for Hearing Impairment.
  • Contact an appropriate state agency, such as a labor department or vocational rehabilitation department, to see if they can help.
  • If your company or agency has a union, contact the union to see if it can help.
  • Sometimes other people in the organization can help if you can trust them. If you know someone you can safely confide in, preferably someone who is in a position to help you, do it.
  • If the discrimination is bad enough, get a lawyer. Do not wait until you lose your job or the discrimination escalates to a level where you are forced to quit to save your emotional and physical health.
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By Jamie Berke
 Jamie Berke is a deafness and hard of hearing expert.