Disability Discrimination Lawyers
Our national network of Disability Discrimination lawyers fights for the rights of employees across the U.S. and is ready to assist you. Contact our firm today for a free consultation if you think you have been discriminated against.
What is Disability Discrimination
Disability discrimination is a form of employment discrimination on the basis of a mental or physical disability. There are two federal laws protecting people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2010 (ADA) prohibits private employers, state and local governments, and employment agencies from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability in the employment context. This includes decisions to hire, fire, promote, or train an individual for a specific job. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 restricts programs conducted by a federal agency from discriminating on the basis of a disability. While there are many other federal laws prohibiting disability discrimination, the ADA and Rehabilitation Act apply primarily to workplace discrimination. Moreover, states may also pass laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a disability. State laws may vary or contain different standards than the ADA for what constitutes a disability.
The ADA Amendments Act
Under the ADA Amendments Act, the term “disability” refers to an individual who: “(1) Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) Has a record of this impairment, or (3) Is regarded as having this impairment.” The phrase “major life activities” has been interpreted to mean anything from walking and seeing, to reading and communicating. Some impairments surface intermittently, but may still be classified as a disability if the impairments substantially limit a major life activity when active.
The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. State laws often extend the regulation to employers with less than 15 employees. The following employers may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities: private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, or labor-management committees.
During Your Job Interview
During a job interview, an employer may not ask an individual if he or she is disabled. Further, an employer is prohibited from asking about the severity of a disability if it is already known. However, an employer is allowed to ask an individual if he or she is able to perform the job duties with or without reasonable accommodation. A reasonable modification is a job adjustment provided by an employer to ensure the employee has an equal employment opportunity in relation to other employees without disabilities. An example of a reasonable accommodation is a restructured work schedule. While employers may provide reasonable accommodations, there is no requirement to do so if the accommodation would impose an “undue hardship” on the business. Thus, if the accommodation would cost the business a significant amount of money, or cause significant difficulty to install, the accommodation is not required. An individual with a disability must simply request a reasonable accommodation. From there, an employer may weigh the costs of the accommodation and determine whether it would impose an undue hardship on the business. An employee with a disability cannot be punished for receiving a reasonable accommodation. The cost of the accommodation cannot be taken out of the employee’s salary.
An employer may not require an applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer. If the employer has already offered the job, however, an employee may be asked to pass a medical examination. An individual with a disability who has been hired may only be asked about the disability in the context of how it relates to job duties. In addition, an employer must provide equal access to health insurance for an employee with a disability. Health insurance that is made available to other employees must be offered to employees with disabilities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws related to job discrimination related to disabilities. The EEOC is a federal agency, and therefore only applies to employers or businesses with fifteen or more employees. Nearly every state has its own agency for enforcing discrimination laws against employers with less than 15 employees. If you feel you have been discriminated against for a disability, you may recover back pay, compensatory or punitive damages, or attorneys’ fees and court costs. Other remedies available include being hired, promoted, reinstated, or receiving a reasonable accommodation.