The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its amendments, as well as an older law called the Rehabilitation Act, protect employees and job applicants from losing jobs and employment opportunities. The ADA is invoked most often in disability discrimination cases, and it works in two ways.
First, and primarily, it makes it illegal to treat a person with disabilities differently from anyone else when it comes to hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and working conditions.
A key way the ADA ensures that people with disabilities receive equal treatment is by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for individuals who are qualified to perform assigned tasks but may need modifications to equipment, schedules or working conditions in order to do so. In addition, the ADA simply bans discrimination against individuals who live with disabilities. In employment settings, managers and coworkers break the law when they insult, harass, or mistreat a person who is disabled or whom they suspect is disabled.
Before the ADA was enacted in 1991, employers could (and usually did) fire or refuse to hire individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities. For instance, a company that could not legally terminate an employee for suffering a work-related injury and claiming workers’ compensation benefits was allowed to do the firing anyway and get with arguing that it had to let the employee go because the individual could not walk as far or lift as much weight.
Now, an employer is required to engage in what ADA regulations call the interactive process. This is a discussion between the worker, managers and supervisors about what can be done to ensure that an employee can continue working or that a qualified job applicant can complete the application process.
Where things get complicated, and where it often becomes necessary to involve a disability discrimination attorney, is determining what constitutes a reasonable accommodation. The ADA does not offer a definition, and what an employer considers to be reasonable can differ greatly from what an employee or job applicant expects. We protect the rights of employees who experience disability discrimination in the workplace.
People have been fired for making requests as limited as an extra 15-minute break. Job applicants have been turned away just because they asked to take paperwork home to make sure they could fill out everything properly. Putting the question to a judge or jury is sometimes the only way to receive a definitive answer on whether a requested or offered accommodation is reasonable.
Even when a reasonable accommodation is available, a worker with a disability can find holding or seeking a job difficult. They too often experience mockery, sabotage, and abuse. While the ADA permits occasional and good-natured teasing, harmful and threatening behavior directed toward people with disabilities is frequent. The workplace environment can become hostile, and workers may feel they have no other choice than to quit in order to protect themselves.
If you were denied a reasonable accommodation or have been harassed on account of a known or suspected disability, contact our offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman, we offer free and confidential consultations on employment law cases, and we are available to help workers across the state.
To schedule an appointment with disability discrimination attorney, call us at (614) 221-3318 or reach out online. We cannot take every case, but we will be happy to discuss your legal options.