Q I had triple bypass surgery last year and was applying for a position with a new company. I was asked questions like, "How many sick days did you take last year?", "What prescription drugs are you taking?", "What disability do you take it for?" and "Do you have a disability which would interfere with your ability to perform the job?" I answered all of the questions truthfully. When they called to tell me that I didn’t get the job, they told me I was too much of a risk to hire. Are they allowed to ask me questions about my medical condition?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for an employer, prior to an offer of employment, to ask whether an applicant has a disability or about the severity of the disability. An employer may ask about the applicant’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job. An employer may not refuse to hire an otherwise qualified applicant with a disability unless there are no reasonable accommodations available to allow the applicant to perform the job. In addition, it is unlawful under the PHRA for an employer to refuse to hire someone because of a risk that they may develop a disability in the future.
Q I use a wheelchair for mobility. Last night, my husband and I tried to go to a township meeting. The entrance was at the top of a flight of seven steps. After my husband carried me and then my wheelchair in, I couldn’t use the bathrooms because they were inaccessible. Can I file a complaint with you about this?
A Yes. Under the PHRA, a municipality must normally provide accessible meeting locations in accessible facilities.
Q I was hired as a bus driver for the school district. When they hired me, they knew I had to drive buses with an automatic transmission because of my disability. After driving for several weeks, I asked to be scheduled for student field trips in order to earn overtime pay. The school district said no to my request because they said that if I were permitted to drive a bus with automatic transmission for field trips, then all of the drivers would make the same request. This isn’t legal, is it?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for an employer to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to an employee’s disability, unless doing so would amount to an undue hardship. You have the right to file a complaint with PHRC, and we will investigate and take the appropriate action to correct any discrimination found.
Q My mother lives with me because she has a visual impairment and Alzheimer’s. When she becomes ill, I need to take my available sick family leave time to take her to her doctor’s appointments. My boss is getting on my case because it’s my mother who is sick — not me. I had to provide proof that she is my mother, plus certification of her illnesses. Now they are trying to make me say in writing the exact days and times of her appointments. I can’t do that because I never know when she is going to be sick. I just put in for sick family leave this week and the request was denied. Doesn’t my employer need to give me this time because my mom is sick?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s association or relationship to a person with a disability, such as your mother. You may file a complaint with PHRC, and we will investigate and take the appropriate action if any discrimination is found.
Q I need daycare for my two-year old son. Last week, I went to a local center where there is an opening. I inspected the facility and was very pleased with what they had to offer. I asked to enroll my son immediately. When we were completing the forms, the center director asked me if my son required any medication to be administered to him. I told her that he did because he is HIV positive. When I told the director this information, she became very upset and expressed many common concerns. I answered all of her questions and indicated that my son had no special needs. I also pointed out that all childcare centers are required to adopt Universal Precautions. The director then told me that she had to check with the corporate office before she could admit my son. I just got off the phone with the woman. They denied my application for enrollment. They can’t do this, can they?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for a public accommodation, such as a daycare center, to refuse service based on someone's HIV status. You have a right to file a complaint with PHRC, and we will investigate and take the appropriate action.
Q I have a visual impairment and I’m a wheelchair user. I just had a doctor’s appointment and I called for a taxi to take me home. The taxicab company told me a taxi would be there to pick me up in 20 minutes and I told the dispatcher I would be waiting in the lobby in my wheelchair. I waited for an hour before a cab driver approached me and asked if I was the one who had called for a taxi. I said ‘yes’ and the cab driver asked me to wait a while longer and said he would be right back. The cab driver then picked up another passenger and left me waiting and never returned. Besides being rude, isn’t it illegal?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for a public accommodation, such as a taxi service, to refuse to serve someone because of his or her disability. While there may be an issue of how accessible an accommodation must be, that does not seem to be the case in your situation, since the taxi service knew you were in a wheelchair and agreed to provide a taxi for you.
Q A few months ago, my doctor diagnosed me with allergies that give me breathing problems when I work in the cold. The food company I work for has me assigned to work both in and out of a freezer. For the first couple of months they gave me work to do outside of the freezer. Three days ago, the company held a meeting with only the employees with medical restrictions. We were all told that our jobs were being abolished. I was told that if I could not work in the freezer, I was no longer needed. In order to keep my job, I agreed to work in the freezer. I was in there for only four hours before I had to leave for an emergency treatment at the hospital because I had aggravated my allergies. Today, the personnel director called and said I was fired. I tried to do the work, but I just couldn’t. Doesn’t the company have to try and help me out?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for an employer to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s disability, unless doing so would amount to an undue hardship. The fact the employer abolished the positions of only the employees with medical restrictions may be evidence of possible unlawful discrimination. You may file a complaint with PHRC, and we will investigate and take the appropriate action if discrimination is found.
Q I have a guide dog because of my blindness. I went to rent an apartment and the landlord said no pets are allowed. Can he treat my guide dog like a pet?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for a landlord to refuse to rent to a person with a guide or support animal, even if there is a no pet policy. It is also unlawful to charge a pet fee for a guide or support animal.
Q I have lived in the same apartment complex for the last four years. I was recently injured in an accident and must use a wheelchair to get around, but I can still drive. I asked the apartment complex to give me a parking space near the entrance to my building. They said no because they won’t designate a space for anyone else. Why can’t they make a space for me?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for a landlord to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant’s disability. The provision of a disability parking space is usually reasonable.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more infirm and not as steady as I used to be. I want to pay to have a grab bar installed in my bath tub, but my landlord said ‘no.’ Can he refuse to allow me to do this?
A It is unlawful under the PHRA for a landlord to refuse to let a person with a disability make reasonable modifications of existing premises, if modifications are necessary to allow the person full enjoyment of the premises and that person is willing to pay for the modifications and restore the premises to its prior condition when the lease is up, wear and tear excepted. Under certain circumstances, the modifications may be left as they are when the lease is up.