The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect employees from being discriminated against because of their disabilities and also helps guide employers towards making accommodations to fit their needs. But despite these federal guidelines, situations involving discrimination against individuals afflicted with various disabilities does occur in today’s working world.
About the Americans with Disabilities Act
Essentially, the ADA prohibits employers from discrimination in the workplace against job applicants and employees on account of their disabilities. Such discrimination is often seen in the firing, promotion, payment, and hiring of persons with disabilities.
The act also protects employees from being retaliated against by employers after they enforce their rights and freedoms under the law. By consulting with an employment lawyer, you should gain a better understanding of your rights, and how to go about enforcing them.
The ADA specifies that all private employers with a minimum of 15 employees must follow the Americans with Disabilities Act. As such, these employers cannot discriminate against qualified worker on account of their disabilities.
In the same way, employers must provide reasonable and logical accommodations at the workplace for employees with disabilities – so long as such accommodations won’t cause undue hardship to the employer.
Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act specifies the disabilities that are considered under the law, which employees are protected under this act, when accommodations are needed, and what an undue hardship encompasses.
Employees Protected Under ADA
ADA will protect the following classes of employees:
a) Employees with Disabilities
If the employee in question has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, then they are protected under the act.
b) Employees with a History of Impairment
Similarly, employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees based on their previous disability.
c) Employees Regarded as Disabled
Sometimes, employers will regard certain individuals as disabled. This may be true even in those cases where the employer might be wrong and the employee is not disabled in the first place. In case the employer discriminates against a worker based on their correct or incorrect belief that the said worker has a disability, then that worker will be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What is “Disability” Under ADA?
For purposes of this act—a disability is any mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. In the same way, these life activities are broadly defined as including basic tasks (communicating, bending, reading, or walking) and major bodily functions (reproductive, endocrine, circulatory, respiratory, brain, neurological, bladder, bowel, digestive, normal cell growth, and functions of the immune system).
If the impairment in question does not limit the individual’s ability to perform major life activities, then the ADA will not consider it to comprise of a disability. As such, it will not be protected under this act. For instance, temporary ailments are not counted as disabilities. To better understand this act and what forms of disability it protects, it is wise to consult with an employment attorney who can provide clear guidance on if a particular ailment qualifies as a disability under ADA.
Qualified Workers with Disabilities
The ADA only protects qualified employees with disabilities. These include those individuals who are capable of performing the duties required for a job – with or without reasonable accommodation from their employer.
These essential duties refer to those tasks that are crucial and fundamental to the job description and to the position in question. As such, ancillary duties do not count as essential duties.
For instance, customer service reps may draft correspondences to communicate with unhappy clients, answer phones, and resolve customer complaints. If business is slow, such employees might (for instance) be required to restock office supplies or file documents. Whereas the customer service tasks are essential to the job, the filling and the restocking are not.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodation
Where necessary, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for their disabled or impaired employees. This accommodation refers to modifications and/or adjustments that allow employees to do their job well.
As such, the ADA does not require that employers guess whether reasonable accommodations are needed. Additionally, they won’t be required to provide particular accommodation requested by an employee if another accommodation will also serve the same purpose.
However, employers must interact and engage in dialog with their employees about the accommodations that will best meet the disabled employee’s needs. If you are facing difficulties making this happen, please talk to an employment lawyer to get help.
What is Undue Hardship?
Employers cannot provide reasonable accommodation in those cases where doing so will cause undue hardship to them. Undue hardship, in this scenario, refers to any significant expense or difficulty to a business.
Factors that determine whether such accommodation will create undue hardship revolve around:
- The cost and nature of the needed accommodation
- The financial resources available to the employer
- The size, structure, composition and nature of the business
- Accommodation costs the employer has already incurred to make the workplace habitable for disabled employees
In cases where the cost of the accommodation will threaten the organization’s financial ability (such as when the company is small, or the cost is too large), then this will be taken to be an undue hardship. As such, the accommodation will be forgone.
Contact The Brown Firm PLLC for a Free Consultation!
Although this article provides useful insight into ADA, there is a lot of information regarding discrimination in the workplace that does not cover. If you feel like you are being discriminated against, or have been, at the workplace—get in touch with our employment lawyers today by sending us a message online or calling directly. We will help you understand your situation and provide guidance on what your best option is moving forward. Initial consultations are provided free of charge so that you can discuss your needs and the viability of your case.