The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Disability Discrimination


Since 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place to protect individuals with disabilities in the work force. The act protects qualified, potential candidates for employment during the interview process as well as employees already working against any discrimination based on their mental or physical disabilities. It also protects employees from any harassment in the workplace because of their disabilities, and it protects employees from discrimination if they are associated with someone who has a disability.

Once the act was signed into law, employers could no longer discriminate against candidates based on any physical or mental disabilities. The law also mandates that employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for both potential employees and current employees with disabilities that will enable them to perform the functions of the job, as long as those accommodations don’t cause the employer any undue hardship.

Unfortunately, disability discrimination is still a commonplace practice in many of today’s companies, and finding a disability discrimination lawyer to decipher the ins-and-outs of the law when it pertains to disability harassment and discrimination can be a challenge. At West Coast Employment Lawyers, our lawyers specialize in protecting the rights of individuals impacted by employers who disregard the ADA.

If you believe that your disabilities are being discriminated against or that you are being harassed or treated unfairly in the workplace because of them, you need a competent, qualified disability discrimination lawyer who fully understands disability discrimination law to make sure that you are protected in the work environment. Here is a better understanding of exactly how the law is designed to protect you.

What is Considered a Disability?

Individuals who are protected by the ADA must both be able to perform the duties of a job and have a qualified disability. The law recognizes three types of disabilities.

  • Any mental or physical ailment that limits a person’s ability to walk, speak, see, hear, or learn is considered a disability by law.
  • The ADA also protects individuals who have a history of a physical or mental disability.
  • Disabilities can also be defined as short-term, meaning that they aren’t issues lasting a lifetime.

How Does the ADA Affect the Workplace?

Employers must abide by the laws in relation to several different areas of working environment.

  • Disabilities aren’t allowed to be considered by employers during the hiring process if the candidate is qualified for the job.
  • It’s illegal for employers to use an employees disability as a reason for termination or layoffs.
  • A person’s disability should not be considered as a condition for determining salary.
  • Employers cannot take anyone’s disability into account when making decisions for internal promotions.
  • A person’s mental or physical disability cannot be a consideration when assigning jobs.
  • In short, as long as someone is qualified to perform the basic duties of a job, even if it means making reasonable accommodations enabling them to do so, employers cannot discriminate based on any mental or physical disabilities.

What is Considered a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation comes into play when either a prospective employee or current employee has the qualifications to perform a certain job as long as some modifications are made allowing for their disability. The modifications cannot be excessive, meaning that the employer is not at the mercy of the law.

For instance, if someone is applying for employment, has a disability as defined by the ADA, but would require a minor accommodation in order to perform the job to the company’s standards, then the employer must overlook any disabilities and consider making the modification. If any modification would cause undue duress or excessive expense for the employer, they are not required to make any changes.

The same laws would apply to employees who become disabled while employed. As long as the accommodation is reasonable, employers are required to comply. However, in either case, a person cannot demand a specific accommodation.

ADA and Harassment

The law also applies to employees being harassed in the workplace because of their disabilities. Harassment covers a broad range of circumstances. But, basically, if a person feels like they are being harassed in the workplace and it makes for an uncomfortable work atmosphere, then they are being harassed.

If someone feels like they are being harassed, they need to inform someone with authority. If the harassment is coming from a superior, then the employee should speak to someone with more authority. Once communication is established, the issue must be addressed and remedied by the appropriate parties.

While the outcome of any internal company harassment investigation may not always result any serious reprimands or terminations, the result should be a peaceful end to the harassment. If the abuse continues, even after it has been addressed, it may be time for person being harassed to speak to an employment attorney or a disability discrimination lawyer who specializes in disability discrimination law.

Below are a few situations that would be considered harassment.

  • Any ongoing, frequent, negative comments about a person’s disability that are made in the working environment would be considered harassment, regardless of whether the disability is life-long, temporary, or without visible signs.
  • Harassment would also be constituted by anyone in the workplace making derogatory comments about an employee’s past mental or physical disabilities.
  • The harassment can come from anyone in the working environment. It could be a co-worker, a boss, a subordinate, or even a customer. You have the legal right to not be harassed by anyone in your workplace.
  • It’s also against the law for an employer to terminate or demote a victim of harassment as a means of rectifying the situation.

ADA and Medical Conditions and Exams

Employers are not allowed, by law, to ask any specific questions about the nature of any disabilities at any point in the employment process, including the interview phase.

An employer also cannot ask either a potential employee or a current one who has a disability to take any medical tests unless the same test is administered to every other employee working in the same capacity.

Employers are also restricted from asking about any results from any medical tests, either from job applicants or employees.

Employers are allowed to ask interviewees if they are able to perform the duties of the job that they are applying for.

The employer is allowed to ask medical questions and may require a medical exam in order to make the appropriate, reasonable accommodations for an employee.

Are You Feeling Harassed in Your Workplace?

If your employer is allowing or even cultivating a working environment conducive to harassment, making you feel victimized, and you’ve informed them and nothing is changing, you should first get in touch with the EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They will advise you of the next steps to take, including when it’s in your best interests to speak to an employment attorney who fully understands disability law.

At West Coast Employment Lawyers, our attorneys have both the experience and the knowledge with disability discrimination law to not only stop the harassment happening in your workplace, but also possibly get you the compensation that you deserve for the pain and suffering that you have endured caused by the harassment.

It’s time to end the suffering. Every employee has the right to perform their jobs in a workplace free from harassment and discrimination, especially if it’s because of their disability. West Coast Employment Lawyers will stand up for your rights, allowing you to work in the environment that you rightfully deserve.