If You Become Blind, Can Your Employer Fire You?

Some minor adjustments may allow you to keep your job if you become blind.

Some minor adjustments may allow you to keep your job if you become blind.

If you are struck with a disability, insurance and sick leave are temporary reliefs, but the fear of being jobless will cause you to lose sleep. Some disabilities are more worrisome than others. A case of carpal tunnel syndrome would probably require a wrist brace, an ergonomic keyboard and some hand exercises to get you working again. Undergoing a loss of sight is more traumatic and not easily accommodated. Losing your job is a justifiable concern should you become blind.

Will Blindness Cause Termination

The answer to whether blindness will lead to termination is not black and white. The Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, protects disabled employees in the workplace, but there are limitations. The act states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees to allow them to continue their jobs. Being hired before your disability became apparent throws your employer for a loop because they probably weren’t counting on the added expense. There is also the matter of the type of work that you do.

Job Type

While the act requires that your employer makes reasonable accommodations, there is the caveat that you must be able to perform the job. If you previously drove a bus before losing your sight, there is no accommodation that can reasonably be made to allow you to continue driving. The same can be said for jobs such as police officer, firefighter, crossing guard or basketball player. You may be able to qualify for a modified office position, but if your company has no openings, it is under no legal obligation to retain you. By contrast, if you were an office worker before you lost your sight, accommodations can be made to office equipment that enable you to continue working.

Reasonable Accommodations

The ADA requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations, but the employer does not have to bear a hardship to make accommodations for you. Basically, this means that your employer doesn’t have to go broke while assisting a blind employee. Depending on the size of your company, your employer may be able to afford voice recognition software that allows you to continue working. Your company might welcome a seeing eye dog if you choose to use one. If your position was very technical, such as dealing with intricate spreadsheets, charts or graphs, be prepared to either take a less challenging position or to be let go altogether. Technology has made many advancements, but there are still limitations.

Resources

If you feel that you have been unfairly treated due to a disability such as blindness, there are places to turn to for help. Before consulting an outside agency, talk to your human resources representative about company policy regarding disabilities. HR representatives are there to protect the company from potential lawsuits, so they will usually do what they can to help you. But if that doesn’t work, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, has information on how to proceed. You can get more information on the American Disabilities Act on the ADA website.

 

About the Author

Adele Burney started her writing career in 2009 when she was a featured writer in "Membership Matters," the magazine for Junior League. She is a finance manager who brings more than 10 years of accounting and finance experience to her online articles. Burney has a degree in organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration from Rollins College.

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