Despite growing awareness of autism and many of its associated symptoms, men and women with autism still experience high rates of workplace discrimination. Autism discrimination often stems from a lack of understanding on the employer’s side. This is not a justification for discriminatory actions, though, as it is an employer’s responsibility to be aware of workers’ disabilities and to provide reasonable accommodations when possible.
What is autism discrimination?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines discrimination as the different or less favorable treatment of someone for a specific reason, including because of a disability. Autism — also known as autism spectrum disorder — is a developmental condition that is also considered a disability. When an employer treats a worker with autism less favorably, he or she is committing autism discrimination.
Challenges in the workplace
Some of the symptoms of autism can make work difficult for adults with autism. For example, a worker might struggle to engage in everyday conversations with co-workers or maintain eye contact with customers. Workers with autism might also struggle to identify the signs of discrimination or feel incapable of taking action when they do realize what is going on. Men and women who experience some of the following symptoms of autism also frequently experience high levels of discrimination:
- Hand flapping
- Use of strange speech patterns
- Need for a predictable routine
- Sensory overload
Workers with autism are protected by the Americans with Disability Act. Unfortunately, many employers still regularly engage in autism discrimination, making it difficult for workers with autism to find and maintain gainful employment. Those who have been mistreated during the hiring process or while at work may be able to secure compensation for their damages, though. In Hawaii, this is most often accomplished through the careful actions of a workplace discrimination lawsuit.