AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act is commonly known as the ADA.  Enacted by Congress in 1990, the ADA is meant to protect disabled individuals from discrimination in the workplace, public places and at businesses while simultaneously promoting equal-opportunity participation in the American workforce.  In addition to the ADA, which protects disabled employees on the national level, many states have adopted similar laws. The Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, grants additional legal protections to persons employed or seeking employment in the state of California. The Missouri Human Rights Act also protects individuals in much the same way.

Man walking his disability Dog

While the ADA has afforded countless Americans invaluable employment opportunities by challenging negative stereotypes, noncompliance with the Act can spell financial doom for employers of all natures, structures, and sizes.  If an employee or job applicant alleges disability-based discrimination and files a claim against your company, you could be facing considerable civil penalties in addition to the ongoing disruption to overall productivity wrought by litigation.

At Bellatrix PC, our knowledgeable employment law lawyers have years of experience defending businesses against discrimination lawsuits.  We will guide you through each and every stage of the legal process while vigorously protecting your legal and financial interests.  Don’t allow a minor problem today to become a major problem tomorrow: for a private consultation, call the business defense attorneys of Bellatrix PC at (800) 449-8992.

Is My Business Subject to the ADA?

With a few exceptions, the ADA prohibits workplace disability discrimination by the following types of entities:

  • Corporations
  • Employment Agencies
  • Federal Agencies
  • Private Employers
  • State Agencies
  • Unions

Generally speaking, the ADA applies to employers who have 15 or more employees.  The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against all “qualified individuals with disabilities,” meaning job applicants are also potentially covered in addition to existing employees.

An individual has a disability under the ADA definition if he or she:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Has a record of such impairment.
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

For the purposes of the ADA, a person is considered to be a “qualified individual with a disability” if they meet the actual, performance-based qualifications for a job and can perform a job’s essential functions with or without a “reasonable accommodation.”  We will discuss the concept of reasonable accommodations in greater detail in the next section.

Employer Compliance: Requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the applicant must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without “reasonable accommodations.”  The employer is duty-bound to attempt to provide reasonable accommodations to a “qualified individual with a disability,” as long as these accommodations do not impose an undue burden on the employer.  Unfortunately for employers, the standard for an undue burden can be difficult to meet and is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Generally speaking, employers should seek to provide reasonable accommodations (1) when faced with disabled employees, and (2) wherever feasible.  Attempting to determine whether an individual is a “qualified individual with a disability” and whether an accommodation is truly “reasonable” can be a challenging task, but the attorneys at Bellatrix PC can help you analyze and find workable solutions to these types of situations as they arise.  Another important part of this process is documenting your efforts to accommodate, and/or discussing accommodations with any of your disabled employees.  The evidence contained within your written records can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of a legal claim.

“Reasonable accommodations” for disabled workers is a broad term which can include a wide array of options, as such accommodations depend on the nature of the employee’s disability.  Some examples may include:

  • Modifying work schedules.
  • Acquiring adaptive equipment or modifying work equipment, including equipment renting and leasing.
  • Appropriately modifying examinations, training, or other programs.
  • Reassigning the employee to a vacant position for which he or she is qualified.

Finally, it is important to note that the ADA is not the only anti-discrimination law with which California employers must comply.  The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, also prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

In fact, the FEHA has a broader definition of disability than the ADA, covers more conditions than the ADA, and is applicable to a greater number of employers by virtue of the lower employee threshold.  More specifically, the FEHA generally applies to employers with five or more employees, subject to certain exceptions.

Under the FEHA, employees can potentially sue their employers specifically for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation or failing to engage in a timely, good faith interactive process to attempt to find a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee.

Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys

Disability discrimination is a complex area of law, and related claims require persistence and knowledge. If you have a disabled employee who notifies you of a need for accommodations, you must act promptly to comply with the disability discrimination laws and find workable solutions for your business.  Our business defense lawyers will work closely with you to identify and evaluate your potential courses of action.

If you have been sued by an employee for alleged discriminatory practices, including wrongful termination and employer retaliation, our experienced attorneys can help.  Whether it is most appropriate to settle your case prior to suit, bring your case through through arbitration or mediation, or challenge the claim in court, Bellatrix PC is prepared to assist.  In addition to handling disability-based discrimination claims, we also handle claims arising from:

To schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about how our legal team can serve your business, call Bellatrix PC right away at (800) 449-8992.  The sooner we can initiate a review of your employment policies, the greater peace of mind you will feel knowing your company is protected.  Ask about our business risk review package.

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Alicia Dearn

Alicia I. Dearn is the founder of Bellatrix PC, a woman-owned law firm with offices in Missouri and California. Bellatrix PC handles lawsuits and business transactions. We advise in business, employment, real estate, intellectual property, civil litigation, and election law.


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The articles published by Bellatrix PC are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal issue, please get competent advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. Use of Bellatrix PC's site is subject to our Attorney Advertising Disclaimers.
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