When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was into law 23 years ago this month, it marked an expansion of civil rights protections to people with disabilities. In many ways it is similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits certain parties from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Importantly, both of these laws specifically prohibit employers from discriminating against the groups protecting in matters pertaining to employment. Prohibited discrimination in the workplace is a significant problem in the United States, and is often in violation of both state and federal law. People who suffer such workplace discrimination may be able to bring file a complaint against their employer, and may be able to recover damages in certain circumstances. Anyone who believes that they may have be subjected to or are currently experiencing workplace discrimination should consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible.
The ADA prohibits certain employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in regard to employment related matters. The types of employers covered under the Act are generally employers with 15 or more employees that are engaged in interstate commerce, and can include businesses, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees. Under the ADA, a “disability” is a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity.
The types of employment-related matters in which disability may not play a role include the following:
-Decisions regarding hiring or firing
-Issues regarding worker’s compensation
An employer also may not limit or classify a disabled employee in an adverse way, and must make reasonable accommodations for the known limitations of disabled employees. Generally speaking, there are three categories of reasonable accommodation:
-Changes to a job application process that allows a qualified applicant to be considered for a position
-Changes to a the work environment that allows a qualified employee with a disability to perform required job functions
-Modifications that allow a disabled employee to enjoy the same privileges and benefits as non-disabled employees
In addition to federal law, employees with disabilities are also protected by Oregon state law, which prohibits employers with more than 6 employees from discriminating on the basis of disability.
Compliance with the ADA is complicated, and there are certain remedies that must be pursued before a legal action may be filed. Some employers may choose to simply ignore ADA requirements, hoping that their employees are either ignorant of the law or will not take the time required to pursue a claim. An attorney can assist you in determining whether you have a claim, and can also advise on how best to proceed. To discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney, contact HKM today