Disability Workplace Discrimination Synopsis

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | August 04, 2013

American workers with disabilities, who satisfy the essential requirements for their job, have greater protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments to obtain accommodations in their employment. The ADAAA shifted the primary focus from Does the employee have a disability? to Has the employer complied with their obligations? and Did discrimination occur? This shift necessitates that employers both know and comply with their obligations under the ADA Amendments and the ADA revised regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The ADA, enacted in 1990, provides legal rights to persons with disabilities including access to public and commercial facilities, transportation, state and government services and protection against discrimination in their employment. The ADA Amendments, which went into effect on January 1, 2009, kept the same definition of disability but greatly expanded how terms under the ADA are interpreted. The EEOC revised regulations went into effect on May 24, 2011. All of these changes broadened the employee protections under the ADA and impose important obligations for employers.

Employer Obligations

Employer" is defined under the ADA to include those employers who are engaged in interstate commerce with 15 or more employees, during 20 or more weeks in the current or past calendar year. "Employer" may include a private employer, employment agency, labor organization or joint labor-management committee.

Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees due to their disability and from subjecting them to a workplace in which they are harassed on the basis of their disability. Unlawful discrimination includes discrimination in recruitment, advertising and application procedures and conditions of employment including hiring, promotion, tenure, demotion, transfer, layoff, compensation, assignments, position, seniority, leave, and benefits.

The ADA also prohibits qualification standards and tests related to uncorrected vision unless the requirements are job related for the position and are consistent with business necessity. Employment discrimination can occur if the employer fails or refuses to provide a qualified employee or applicant for employment with a reasonable accommodation.

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