Disability Discrimination

American workers are protected against all types of discrimination, including disability discrimination, by several federal and state laws. These laws aim to give disabled Americans the same rights and privileges as workers who do not have disabilities. This means that just because you suffer from a medical condition or disability, an employer is not necessarily allowed to treat you unfavorably due to that disability. While it may seem intuitive that everyone should have the same rights, this was not always the case, and it is only since 1990 that we have laws in place to legally protect disabled workers. There are two federal laws which protect workers: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. It is now illegal for an employer, or potential employer, to discriminate against an employee, or potential employee, who is covered by the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. Qualified individuals are protected against discrimination in the pre-hiring phase (such as denying employment or refusing to interview), during the employment phase (such as limiting the work an employee can do, refusing to promote a worker or refusing to provide reasonable accommodation), and from firing an employee. The laws can be complicated, and it can be hard to know if you have a case or not. If you think you may be the victim of disability discrimination, please call us for a free and confidential consultation at 1-888-204-1014. We can advise you on not only whether or not you have a case, but also how you should best proceed. Your actions can directly impact both your circumstances at your job, as well as whether or not you have a case.

What Qualifies as a Disability?Disability Discrimination

While the rights of disabled persons have had a huge leap forward because of the ADA, it is not a catch all. Just because you have a medical condition does not necessarily mean that you are covered under the law for disability discrimination. There is a legal standard for who is protected. You can qualify as having a disability by proving one of the following:

  • You have a mental or physical condition that prevents you from participating in a major life activity (examples would include the ability to breathe, care for oneself, learn, talk, hear, walk, see, etc).
  • You have a history of a disability (examples would include a disease that is in remission, such as cancer or multiple sclerosis)
  • You are perceived to have a substantially limiting disability

Determinations on whether or not a person suffers from a disability covered by the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act are made on a case by case basis.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (also known as ADA) is a federal law enacted by Congress in 1990 to protect disabled workers under certain circumstances. This law makes it illegal to discriminate in any employment related activity against a worker with a qualified disability (a substantial impairment). This law applies to employers across a wide spectrum including both state and local governments, labor organizations, private employers, and employment agencies. This includes any of the aforementioned employers with 15 or more employees after July 26, 1994. An Amendment to this act was signed in 2008 and is called the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). This amendment gives even more protection to workers with disabilities. The ADAAA was passed because several Supreme Court decisions were viewed as limiting the rights of disabled persons because of strict interpretation of language used in the ADA. The definition of who is considered “disabled” was broadened in the ADAAA to include workers who were discriminated against because of a perceived disability rather than just focusing on the technical aspects of whether or not a person was disabled.

Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination of individuals with disabilities in a number of Federal activities including Federal employment, programs run by Federal agencies, programs that receive assistance at the Federal level and by employers who are Federal contractors. The Americans with Disabilities Act standards are used to determine employment discrimination in the Rehabilitation Act.

Disability Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

By law, employers must make “reasonable accommodation” for employees who qualify under the American with Disabilities Act. Reasonable accommodation includes any changes to the workplace or a job that allow an employee or qualified applicant to do their job or engage in the application process. The main point of reasonable accommodation is to make sure that qualified disabled workers have the same chances and opportunities that any non-disabled worker has.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency whose responsibility it is to enforce all laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. It is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has an operating budget of over $340 million and over 2,000 employees. The EEOC can investigate claims of discrimination, and also works to provide education and assistance and prevent discrimination from happening in the first place.