U.S. government data shows that 1 in 4 American adults will experience a disabling condition at some point in their lives. Additionally, just slightly more than 19 percent of individuals with significant disabilities hold jobs.
In light of these statistics, no one can deny that employers discriminating against people with disabilities is a serious problem. Two powerful laws prohibit the practice, but holding employers accountable for violating workers’ rights under the American with Disability Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act can be difficult.
Filing a disability discrimination lawsuit is often necessary, but that is a final step. Here, we outline the process of recognizing and attempting to resolve unfair and unjust treatment by employers. You can learn more and discuss how one of our disability discrimination attorneys can formally advise and represent you by reaching out to The Friedmann Firm online or calling us at (614) 610-9755.
A factsheet published by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that a job applicant or employee has protections under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act if they can demonstrate one of the following things:
Employers cannot use a worker’s disability status as the principal reason for making a decision regarding that individual’s hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotion, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and/or conditions of employment. Additionally, managers and supervisors cannot allow an employee to suffer harassment due their actual or perceived disability. Insults and abuse become legally actionable when the mistreatment occurs so frequently and with such severity that it creates a hostile work environment.
The ADA also explicitly protects workers who are not themselves disabled but do care for a family member with a disability. One of the things this means is that employers cannot refuse to hire or extend insurance benefits to someone because they worry about the employee needing to take leave or use health coverage.
Rules put in place to implement the ADA and Rehabilitation Act require employers to spell out processes for receiving, investigating, and attempting to resolve complaints of disability discrimination. Employers must also consider requests to make reasonable accommodations for workers who have disabilities in good faith and must engage in what is called the “interactive process” when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation. This means that an employer must actually have a discussion about whether it can grant a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability that requests an accommodation.
Federal regulators who enforce the laws against disability discrimination will want to see proof that a worker went through their employer’s complaint and resolution processes before attempting to file a lawsuit. If an employer does not know about a disability, there will usually be no duty to accommodate and it is very difficult to prove discrimination occurred if the employer does not know that the employee suffers from a disability. An employee has an undeniable right to consult with and be represented by an employee rights lawyer while dealing directly with their employer.
Importantly, the ADA and Rehabilitation Act also make it illegal for managers and supervisors to retaliate against an employee who complains about discrimination or requests an accommodation for a disability. Prohibited acts of workplace retaliation include, but are not limited to, reassignment to low-status tasks, refusal of promotions, denial of benefits, verbal abuse, and firing. Lawsuits for disability discrimination often include allegations of retaliation.
The EEOC handles formal complaints filed under the ADA. An employee can file a Charge of Discrimination if disability discrimination occurs at work. The office takes complaints by mail or online. You must file a Charge of Discrimination within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment action if you choose to file with the EEOC.
A formal complaint/Charge of Discrimination should include complete contact information for the employee and employer, the names of individuals who allowed or engaged in discriminatory behavior, brief descriptions of each act of disability discrimination, and copies of relevant documents such s emails and performance reviews. An employee rights attorney can assist with preparing your EEOC Charge.
After the EEOC accepts a Charge of Discrimination, it can take one of the following actions:
If the EEOC issues a Right to Sue, you must file suit within 90 days of the date on the Right to Sue, not 90 days from the date you receive the Right to Sue.
An employment attorney can advise as to all steps in this process.