Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: An Outline of the ADA

Published: 24th February 2009
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Discrimination based on one's disability is commonly found in the workplace. For this reason, a law was enacted to provide protection to employees who have disabilities. This is known as the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA forbids employers from discriminating against applicants or employees who have disabilities in every aspect of employment. Some of these aspects include:

• Job application procedures

• Hiring

• Pay

• Promotion or advancement

• Benefits

• Workers' compensation

• Job training

• Firing

• Other benefits, terms, and conditions of employment

In addition, the ADA safeguards employees from retaliation in situations where they insist on their rights under the law.

The ADA is applied to employers, including local and state governments, who have 15 or more employees. Various states have the same laws that may be applied to as well to smaller employers.

Those employers who are subject to the ADA are not allowed to discriminate against a qualified employee who has a disability. Moreover, employers have to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled employees, given that the accommodation will not cause the employer undue hardships.

The ADA spells out what counts as a disability and which employees are protected.

What is a "Disability?"

Not all illnesses or medical condition qualifies as a disability. The ADA defines disability as a mental or physical impairment, which significantly limits a major life activity. Major life activities are basic activities that can be easily done by the majority of people, such as the following:

• Sitting

• Standing

• Sleeping

• Walking

If the impairment does not substantially limit an individual's capability to perform a major life activity, it is not an ailment that is covered by the ADA. Impairments that are only temporary also do not count as disabilities.

Which Employees are Protected?

Employees who are protected by the ADA are qualified workers who have disabilities. They are disabled individuals who can perform the necessary duties of the job, whether or not they have a reasonable accommodation from the employer.

The necessary duties of the job are those responsibilities that are essential to the position. Ancillary or secondary duties do not count. For instance, a customer service representative of a call center may answer calls, draft letters to customers who are dissatisfied, and settle complaints of customers. If business is slow, employees may also restock or file office supplies. Probably, the customer service tasks are necessary duties of the job, while the "filler" duties probably are not.

What is a "Reasonable Accommodation?"

If necessary, employers have to provide a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment, which allows qualified workers who have disabilities perform the job.

Employers are not obliged to guess whether a reasonable accommodation is necessary. However, once an employer learns of the need for an accommodation, it has to meet that need. Furthermore, an employer is not obliged to provide a special accommodation to an employee if another accommodation will do. However, employers have to engage in the "interactive process," meaning a discussion with the employee regarding what accommodation will meet the needs of that person.

Getting Help

There are other details that you need to know more about the Americans with Disabilities Act. To learn more, it is best to get legal assistance from skilled disability discrimination lawyers.

If you are a victim of discrimination in the workplace, consult with our experienced disability discrimination lawyers. Log on to our website and dial our toll-free number.

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