Disability Rights/Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (hereinafter “ADA”) makes it illegal for private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. Sections of the ADA not relating to employment address discrimination by governmental agencies and in public accommodations. 

Commonly Asked Questions

What is a reasonable Accommodation

A broad range of actions that may constitute a reasonable accommodation are listed in the ADA, including, but not limited to,

  • Making certain existing facilities are readily accessible and usable;
  • restructuring jobs;
  • providing part-time or modified work schedules;
  • reassigning an employee to a vacant position;
  • acquiring or modifying equipment or devices;
  • furnishing qualified readers or interpreters;
  • and other similar accommodations.

Under the ADA, failure to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations of a disabled applicant or employee is an act of discrimination unless the employer can show that the accommodations would impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the business.

“Undue hardship” is vaguely defined as “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense”.  Factors to be considered in determining whether an undue hardship exists include the overall size of the business in terms of employees, facilities, and budget; the type of operation involved, including the structure of the work force; and the nature and cost of the accommodation needed.

Short Term Disability v. Long Term Disability

Short-term disability insurance is often provided by employers to cover those periods of disability that last for up to six months.  The specifics of any short-term disability policy will vary with the terms of each policy, but generally they provide some percentage of wage payment to an employee, who is unable to perform their job based upon a medically certified disability.

Long-term disability is often provided by employers to cover those periods of disability that are more long-term.  These policies often provide coverage after short-term disability coverage has expired.  The standards and requirements of any long-term disability will be defined by the actual insurance policy.  Similar to short-term disability, if an employee is eligible, the policy will provide some percentage of an employee’s wage during the period of disability.

The Employer is obligated under federal law to provide upon request a copy of the short-term or long-term disability policy, as well as a “summary plan description” which more simply articulates employee rights and protections under the plan.

What Constitutes Disability Discrimination?

Disability discrimination means treating individuals differently in employment because of their disability, perceived disability, or association with an individual with a disability.

Some examples of disability discrimination may include:

  • Discriminating on the basis of physical or mental disability in various aspects of employment, including: recruitment, firing, hiring, training, job assignments, promotions, pay, benefits, lay off, leave and all other employment-related activities.
  • Harassing an employee on the basis of his or her disability.
  • Asking job applicants questions about their past or current medical conditions, or requiring job applicants to take medical exams.
  • Creating or maintaining a workplace that includes substantial physical barriers to the movement of people with physical disabilities.
  • Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees with a physical or mental disability that would allow them to work.

If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered disability discrimination.  If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, there are federal and state laws protecting you from job discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of your disability.  You are also protected if you are a victim of discrimination because of your association (family, business, social or other relationship) with an individual with a disability.

Who is Qualified under the ADA?

A person is deemed to be a “qualified individual” under the ADA if he or she can perform, with or without reasonable accommodation, the essential functions of the employment position he or she holds or desires.

Under the ADA, an employer must attempt to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations of a disabled applicant or employee.