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U.S. employment rights for people with hearing loss

employment rights for people with hearing loss
This year has been a hard one. The worldwide pandemic has put many out of work and increased the struggle to make ends meet. During this time, job security is an issue many people face. That includes those who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing.
People seeking employment who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing often deal with a lack of accessibility throughout the hiring process. They also have to deal with potential employers questioning their abilities. For many, these hurdles come even if you are qualified for the job. So what employment rights do people with hearing loss actually have?

Employment rights for people with hearing loss

We live in a big and diverse world. As such, our countries have different beliefs and ways of being. This means that there are different rights depending on the country you live in. It’s best to check your local government for rights in your area.

Global rights for people with hearing loss

Outside of our local governing bodies, we also have the United Nations (UN). The UN helps guide countries towards better living standards and equitable human rights. Within the UN, there is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
According to the World Health Organization, CRPD “…is a tool for ensuring that people with disabilit[ies] have access to the same rights and opportunities as everybody else.” Article 27 calls for reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.
You can check out the convention and see if your country supports it by going to the United Nations’ website.

Will an Employer Refuse to Hire Me Because of My Hearing Loss?

In the U.S., an employer cannot say they are refusing to hire you based on your hearing loss. Being deaf/HOH is a protected class under disabilities. This means this kind of discrimination is illegal. That does not mean it doesn’t happen, however.
For a lawsuit made in 2015, FedEx recently paid $3.3 million to people who are deaf and hard of hearing, for denying accommodations and employment based on hearing loss

Rights as an Employee with Hearing Loss

In the U.S., your rights as a person with a hearing loss are dependent upon your employer. This is because of the division of work. People who work for the federal government are covered by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. According to NAD, “This law requires the federal government to practice affirmative action to hire and to promote employees with a disability, including deaf and hard of hearing employees.”
However, more people are familiar with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title 1 of the ADA gives employment rights to people with disabilities by barring discrimination against them. This law only pertains to certain employers, though, specifically those who have at least 15 employees.
Always check the employee handbook for a company or organization. The handbook will give you an understanding of a particular job’s policy.

Can I Get Fired for My Hearing Loss?

The reality is, yes. People have gotten fired because of their hearing loss. In most cases, this is an illegal firing. As mentioned above, there are protections in place for people with hearing loss. This still does not stop some employers from firing those with hearing loss. It’s important to:
  • Remember your rights as an employee
  • Communicate your needs from the beginning
  • Keep a copy of your company’s handbook

Read more: Tips for working with an employee who has hearing loss 

Facing Discrimination in the Workplace

Luckily, there are more options for people who face discrimination in the workplace today. There are also more organizations who combat workplace discrimination. Employment rights for people with hearing loss are being taken much more seriously than in the past. So what can you do if impacted by discrimination?
  • Document the incident. If there is a string of incidences, keep a record.
  • Contact your boss or human resources department about the incident. This aids in the documentation of the issues. Make sure your report is in writing. If you speak to the boss or HR department, send an email after the meeting.
  • Retaliation is illegal when reporting an incident. If you face retaliation, document this as well and bring it before the proper people.
  • Familiarize yourself with organizations that support deaf/HOH individuals in your area.
Know that when facing discrimination, it is not your fault. Hold your head up and be confident!
Author Details
Hello, my name is Catalleya Storm (they/them). I work to bring awareness to issues impacting the Black, Deaf, disabled and LGBTQ communities. I was born hearing but started losing my hearing in my late teens. I identify as Deaf/HOH, with the understanding that I am apart of both the hearing world and the Deaf world. I believe that we all can bring about positive change in the world, and that’s what I hope to do with the time I have here.