Discrimination Law

Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Key Takeaways

  • The ADA protects qualified workers against employment discrimination based on a disability.
  • Most employers have to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified workers and job applicants with a disability.
  • If you are discriminated against based on your disability, you can file a complaint with the EEOC.

Some employers don’t think people with disabilities can do a job just like anyone else. This often leads to discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects workers against unlawful discrimination based on disability.

If your employer violates your civil rights because of a disability, you can file an ADA complaint to recover compensation. Contact an employment law attorney to get legal advice about your disability discrimination rights.

What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) enforce ADA protections.

The ADA protects you in all employment practices. This includes recruiting, hiring, promotions, and firing. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against you for asserting your disability rights. For example, if you report disability discrimination to the EEOC, your employer cannot fire you in retaliation.

You are also protected against harassment because of a disability. This includes teasing, offensive remarks, or other actions that create a hostile work environment. 

Who Is Protected by the ADA?

The ADA covers most public-sector and private-sector employees. All employers with 15 or more employees are subject to disability rights laws. These rights cover:

  • State and local government services (under Title II of the ADA)
  • Employment agencies
  • Labor organizations
  • Public transportation
  • Public accommodations (under Title III)
  • Telecommunications

Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ADA protections also apply to workers in the federal government or employees with a federal agency.

State anti-discrimination laws also protect disabled workers. Some states provide broader support for workers with disabilities than under federal law.

What Is a Qualifying Disability?

If you have a qualifying disability, the ADA protects you against employment discrimination based on your disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 clarified the definition of disability.

A qualifying disability includes physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Nondiscrimination also applies to you when you don’t have a disability if your employer believes you are disabled.

A substantial impairment can include those that limit your:

  • Hearing
  • Sight
  • Speech disabilities
  • Walking
  • Breathing
  • Performing manual duties
  • Communicating
  • Major bodily functions

Whether you have a disability, most employers cannot ask about a disability or the severity of your disability. However, the employer can ask how you will perform the duties of the position, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

What Are the Reasonable Accommodations?

Most employers have to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified workers and job applicants with a disability. If you believe you will need an accommodation to perform essential job functions, you should notify your employer. Employers have to provide reasonable accommodation for your physical or mental limitations.

Employers are only excused from providing and paying for reasonable modifications if it would impose an undue hardship on the business.

Can an Employer Refuse to Hire Disabled Workers?

Employers cannot discriminate against workers or qualified applicants because of a disability or perceived disability. This includes refusing to hire a worker because of the cost of a reasonable accommodation. An employer can refuse to hire you in limited situations. This includes when there is a significant risk of substantial harm to you or others.

What Are the ADA’s Telecommunications Protections?

Under Title IV of the ADA, telecommunications companies have to make sure their products are accessible to disabled people. This includes telecommunications relay services and teletypewriters (TTYs) for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech impairment. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates disability telecommunications protections.

How Do You File an ADA Claim?

If you think your employer is discriminating against you, you can file a claim with the EEOC. In most cases, you have 180 days to file a complaint for disability discrimination. However, some states provide additional time.

The EEOC will investigate your complaint. The EEOC may try to settle the case with your employer. If the EEOC cannot settle the case, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit. If your claim is successful, you can get compensatory damages and other remedies, including:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Reasonable accommodations
  • Attorney’s fees

Disabled workers should have equal access to the same job opportunities as anyone else. State and federal civil rights laws protect you against unlawful discrimination. For more information about your legal options, talk to an experienced employment law attorney. They can help you file a claim with the EEOC or represent you in a lawsuit if your claim is unsuccessful.

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