Introduction to Disability Discrimination Law
The legal protection afforded individuals with disabilities from on-the-job discrimination is much newer than other anti-discrimination laws. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was not passed until 1990.
Nevertheless, the ADA and similar legislation under Ohio law have made great strides in bringing persons with disabilities into the workforce and allowing them to contribute their talents and abilities to society free of unwarranted and unnecessary boundaries.
We are well versed in the intricacies of disability discrimination law and have represented numerous individuals in disability discrimination cases.
The ADA is probably the most complex component of the entire body of federal workplace discrimination law. It hinges upon a number of definitions and legal terms, such as:
- Are you a person with a disability? A person with a “disability,” as that term is defined under the ADA, is anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The term also applies to people who are regarded by their employer as disabled, even if they do not actually fit the definition. This broad definition means that many people who do not consider themselves disabled may still find protection under the ADA.
- Are you “otherwise qualified?” Discrimination occurs when a person, because of their disability, is denied a position for which they are otherwise qualified. Otherwise qualified means you are able to perform the essential functions of that position with or without a reasonable accommodation. If there is no reasonable way a person with a disability could perform the essential functions of a job, even if the employer makes reasonable accommodations, it is not discriminatory to deny the person the position.
- What is a reasonable accommodation? An accommodation is an adjustment in policy or procedures or the provision of aid devices that allows a person with a disability to perform a job he or she may not otherwise have been able to perform. This could include allowing additional breaks or adjusted work schedules, installing wheelchair ramps or other access aids, or providing magnifiers or other assistive devices. Whether an accommodation is “reasonable,” however, depends on the degree to which an accommodation would disrupt the employer's operation or necessitate unreasonable cost. Even if an accommodation is objectively reasonable, the employer may assert that it is subjectively an undue hardship under its particular financial situation. Larger employers are generally held to a higher standard of accommodation than smaller employers.
Other Types of Disability Discrimination
In addition to the principals that are particular to the ADA, the Act also prohibits harassment on the basis of disability in much the same way as other federal and state discrimination laws. Employers may be liable for disability-based harassment perpetrated by supervisors, or if the employer knows or should have known the harassment was occurring and failed to act.
Retaliation is Also Prohibited
Both Ohio and federal law include protections against retaliation. This means that if an employer takes an “adverse employment action” against (i.e., punishes) an employee because the employee complained about discrimination in the workplace (or engaged in another “protected activity”), the employee can file a lawsuit specifically for retaliation. It is common for lawsuits to include cases for both discrimination and retaliation. Read more about retaliation here.
Contact The Durst Law Firm if You Are Subjected to Disability Discrimination
If you believe you have been denied employment, demoted, discharged or otherwise treated unfairly based on a physical or mental condition, call us today at (513) 621-4999 to see if there is anything you can do. We are familiar with the complexities and nuances of the ADA and Ohio law and we have handled numerous disability discrimination cases.