Employee Issue:

Disability Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. The purpose of this federal regulation was to prohibit workplace discrimination against individuals with disabilities by requiring that employers provide reasonable accommodations for these workers. The ADA also protects the rights of disabled people in most public places.

Unfortunately, the ADA leaves room for interpretation and does not clearly specify the range of an employer’s duty to accommodate and the scope of a disabled worker’s employment rights. If you suspect you have been discriminated against at work because of your disability, a disability discrimination attorney can help simplify ADA provisions and ensure your rights are protected. To have your case evaluated for free, fill out our no obligation case review form.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to companies with at least 15 employees working for a minimum of 20 weeks. The federal law strictly prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled workers in all stages of employment. This includes the application process, hiring, promotion, training and firing. The ADA also applies to wages and benefits.

The ADA prevents employers from establishing standards that make it difficult for disabled workers to compete. It also prohibits employers from classifying disabled workers so that their career opportunities are more restricted than those of employees without disabilities. In addition, under the ADA, employers must post a list of disabled workers’ rights in a conspicuous place in the workplace.

Defining Disability

The ADA only protects the rights of disabled individuals. According to the ADA, an individual is considered “disabled” if they have a physical or mental disability that limits a “major life activity.” A major life activity refers to any basic, daily task, such as seeing, learning, walking and speaking. If a worker’s disability significantly limits their ability to carry out one or more of these major life activities, they would be considered disabled and therefore protected by the ADA.

Each disability case must be examined separately when determining whether a worker is disabled. However, the ADA commonly protects individuals with learning disabilities, certain types of mental illnesses and those who are deaf, blind or confined to a wheelchair. The ADA does not protect those who cannot perform their jobs because of current drug or alcohol abuse. However, the ADA extends coverage to recovered alcoholics, recovered drug users and alcoholics who can perform their job despite their disability.

When determining whether an employee is disabled, the individual may want to examine whether the use of corrective devices helps relieve some or all of the employee’s limitations. For instance, if an employee is partially deaf, but can hear when wearing a hearing aid, they are not considered disabled.

Lastly, to be considered disabled under the ADA, the individual’s disability must prohibit them from performing a wide range of jobs. A worker whose disability only restricts their ability to perform a certain number of jobs is not protected by the ADA. For instance, if an individual’s colorblindness prevents them from becoming a licensed pilot, they would not be protected by the ADA as they can still qualify for a variety of other jobs.

Reasonable Accommodation

If an employee is disabled according to the ADA, their employer must make reasonable accommodations for the worker’s impairment. In general, a reasonable accommodation permits a disabled worker to perform their job tasks in the same way as an employee who is not disabled. Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Changing a position or its job tasks
  • Permitting a disabled employee to take unpaid medical leave or to use vacation days for medical absences
  • Moving the worker to an empty position or to a non-permanent light duty job
  • Utilizing special equipment to help the worker carry out their job tasks
  • Assigning minor job duties to other employees
  • Changing the work schedule to accommodate the worker’s condition
  • Assigning an interpreter or reader to the worker

The ADA does provide, however, employers with a certain amount of leeway in regard to accommodating disabled workers. For instance, if a disabled job applicant could not carry out certain job tasks even with reasonable accommodations, the employer can legally refuse to hire the worker. Employers can also refuse to make accommodations that are not “reasonable.” The ADA takes into consideration that some accommodations are too expensive or difficult to make, rending them impractical.

If you have been discriminated against at work because of your disability, fill out the free form on the right. A disability discrimination lawyer can evaluate your claim to determine whether you are eligible for a discrimination lawsuit.