Americans With Disabilities Act Claims in Employment

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What do you do if you have been discriminated against based on your disability at your job? Does your job have to accommodate your disability? Are they required to change their policies and procedures to allow you to do your job? These are the subjects of today’s blog post.

The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1991 in order to ensure that Americans living with disabilities have equal access to employment, public housing, and other public facilities. While the law has been revised and expanded over the last thirty years, its purpose remains the same – to make sure that those who are disabled can live without hindrance on the same basis as everyone else. Here are a few things to consider if you are trying to determine what your rights are within your workplace.

“Disability” is a relatively broad term.

Under federal law, a disability is something that impacts the functions of your life in a substantial way or makes it difficult for you to do something that is a major part of your life. Does that sound like a broad definition? It is! Disabilities, under federal law, can include severe allergies, struggles with hearing, cancer, mental health, and various other types of sickness in addition to more commonly known disabilities. They can even include recovering from alcohol or drug use. Determining whether something is a disability requires an analysis of how it affects your daily life. It also requires an analysis of whether it affects your job. If the malady or sickness that you believe is a disability is affecting your ability to perform your job, this is something that you should communicate to your employer, which brings us to our next factor to consider.

Reasonable Accommodation

If you believe that your disability is affecting your ability to work, you should communicate with your employer and request a reasonable accommodation. For example, if you are unable to sit for long periods of time and you have a desk job, you may be able to request an accommodation that allows you to stand at your desk while you work. If this does not affect your ability to perform your job, it is probably a reasonable accommodation that an employer will need to provide. The employer may be able to require you to pay for a stand-up desk or other physical modifications required to allow you to perform this job. However, if your disability requires you to sleep every two hours, it is probably not considered a reasonable accommodation to request that your employer allow you to sleep for half of your shift.

Determining reasonable accommodations depends on prior accommodations that have been decided in case law in the federal courts of the United States. It also requires an analysis of the employer’s specific job requirements and any accommodations provided to other employees at your work. Accordingly, this standard is not whether it is reasonable to you or whether it is reasonable to your employer, it is an objective standard that requires case by case analysis.

Clear Communication

It is important throughout this process to communicate clearly with your employer. As always, it is best to put your concerns in writing, especially if you have had the conversation several times and felt that it has not been acted on. Explain what your disability is, in clear terms, and what accommodation would be appropriate. Some employers will request documentation for your disability. While this is not strictly required, it obviously helps the employer to understand your disability to obtain a doctor’s note, medical records, or other things within reason that will help them to understand your situation.

The Interactive Process

The best way for an employer—and you—to find a reasonable accommodation is an honest and sincere back-and-forth, where you make your requests and they collaborate in finding something that works with their business needs. They may have some ideas about what can be done, which you might accept or reject. It is generally required that the employer engage in this “interactive process” with you. Any refusal to cooperate violates the ADA regulations and can provide the basis for a lawsuit. Naturally, however, if they make a good-faith attempt to work with you and you don’t cooperate, you may lose your right to an accommodation (or lose a lawsuit) that way.

Discrimination or Retaliation

Under the ADA, it is illegal for an employer to refuse a job to a person because of their disability or to take an “adverse action” against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation. The most obvious adverse action is a termination, but they may also include changes in working conditions, loss of hours, lower pay, or reassignment to a less-desirable shift or working arrangement. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against a person with a disability for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

Call Cornerstone Law Firm for help.

If you’ve been discriminated against by your employer, contact the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm. We’d be happy to review your case and go over your options with you. Call us today to schedule a consultation.