Autism affects social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication. In the United States, over 5 million adults have autism, approximately two percent of the population.
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder as there are many subtypes, and it affects people in different ways, depending on certain genetic and environmental factors. Each individual with autism has their distinct challenges and strengths. Some may require significant daily support, while others may need less support and live and work independently.
Many individuals with autism are successfully employed in various fields and industries. Roughly one-third of those with autism exhibit savant skills – extraordinary talents and abilities in mathematics, art, or music fields. Many autistic individuals have valuable strengths and abilities that can lead to thriving careers.
As of 2008, autism is recognized as a qualifying disabling condition for employment purposes. as many autistic individuals may have difficulty with certain aspects of employment, such as:
- Executive functioning
- Time management
- Social communication, interaction, and expectations
- Non-verbal communication
- Sensory stimulation, such as loud noises or bright lights
- Motor skills
Autistic employees often face unique challenges in the workplace, particularly related to communication, sensory sensitivities, and social interactions, which can result in varying forms of discrimination from supervisors, coworkers, and others. Employees with autism may experience:
- Denied opportunities: Qualified autistic employees may be passed over or denied opportunities for promotions, additional responsibilities, or professional development due to their autism, despite their abilities and qualifications.
- Harassment: Autistic employees may experience bullying or harassment from coworkers, supervisors, managers, clients, or customers, creating a hostile work environment.
- Negative stereotyping: Preconceived notions of autistic individuals can result in coworkers and others stereotyping, affecting interaction with autistic employees.
- Social isolation: Autistic individuals often struggle with social interactions and experience isolation from coworkers or being excluded from workplace social activities.
- Lack of understanding: Ignorance regarding autism can result in misinterpretation of an individual’s behavior or communication difficulties.
What Are My Rights Against Disability Discrimination as an Autistic Employee?
All employees are protected from many forms of discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. Disabled workers are further protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA regulations include all public-sector and private employers with 15 or more employees. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified workers in all phases of employment, including recruitment, interviewing, hiring, training, assignments, promotion, firing, paying, and benefits. It is illegal for an employer to fire or take any adverse actions against an employee based on a real or assumed disability, including:
- Firing or demoting from a current position
- Terminating an employment contract
- Reducing salary or benefits
- Changing schedules or reducing hours
- Refusing to assign priority projects
- Denying earned or deserved promotions
- Enacting unfair disciplinary actions
- Denying benefits other employees receive
- Retaliating for filing a disability discrimination claim
- Denial of reasonable accommodations
What Are Reasonable Accommodations?
An employer subject to the ADA must make reasonable accommodations. Examples of reasonable accommodation for an autistic employee may include:
- An office with a door
- Dimming or turning off bright lights
- Allowing remote work from home
- Providing regular breaks
- Allowing the employee to wear sunglasses or headphones
Under the ADA, employers must make reasonable accommodations to support an employee’s ability to perform the job duties, provided it does not cost the employer undue hardship.
What Should I Do if I Believe I Have Been Discriminated Against in the Workplace?
If you experience discrimination at work, report the incidents to the HR department, a manager, or a supervisor. Keep a record of the nature of the discrimination and when it occurred.
If you receive no response or the company’s failure to act, consult an employment lawyer as soon as possible to help you proceed with filing a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a lawsuit against the employer.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Disabled Employees Assert Their Rights
Discriminating against autistic employees is illegal, and you are protected against discrimination in all aspects of employment. If you are experiencing discrimination at work, our experienced South Jersey employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help. Call 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.