Continuing our series regarding the different types of employment discrimination, today we will discuss disability discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits an employer from treating a qualified employee or applicant with a disability unfavorably because he or she has a disability. Disability discrimination can occur when an employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably because he or she has a history of a disability or because he or she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not brief and minor.
Employers are required by law to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer (“undue hardship”). Furthermore, the law also protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability even if they do not themselves have a disability.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that there were 25,165 cases of disability discrimination filed under the ADA in fiscal year 2010, and the agency collected $76.1 million in monetary benefits in that time. The EEOC lists three ways a person can show that he or she has a disability:
- A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (i.e. walking, talking, seeing, hearing)
- A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (i.e. cancer that is in remission)
- A person may be disabled if he or she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he or she does not have such an impairment).
The EEOC also notes that the law places strict limits on employers when it comes to asking job applicants to answer medical questions, take a medical exam or identify a disability. While an employer cannot ask job applicants if they have a disability, they may ask job applicants whether they can perform the job and how they would perform the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Critics of the ADA claim the law accommodates too many people with lesser disabilities. In 2004, a federal judge dubbed Jarek Molski a “hit-and-run plaintiff” after he filed 400 lawsuits against businesses under the ADA. How do you feel about the protection offered by this civil rights law? Does the law go too far? Not far enough? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and we will continue to discuss the other forms of discrimination at work in more blog posts next week.
Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorneys