The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a national civil rights law that protects you from discrimination if you have a disability. The ADA applies to most employers, governments, schools, and more. It also applies to entities that provide public services, including retail stores and restaurants. If you think you have been discriminated against with a disability, you could have an ADA claim. Our ADA attorneys in Chicago at North Suburban Legal Services may be able to assist you.
The ADA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled workers. This part of the ADA is called Title I. It outlaws government organizations, companies, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against job applicants and employees. The law covers organizations with at least 15 employees.
The ADA protects your rights if you are disabled, which means you have a mental or physical impairment that limits one of your major life activities. The ADA also covers you if you have a psychological or physical impairment record. For example, the ADA protects you from being fired if you are a cancer survivor because you could incur higher healthcare costs while employed.
You also are a disabled person under the ADA if you are seen as having an impairment, which means having a temporary disability that does not last longer than six months. The major life activities that the ADA applies include seeing, hearing, talking, walking, and learning. Life functions under the ADA also refer to major bodily functions, including the bladder, bowel, brain, respiratory, and circulatory.
The ADA protects you at work because it outlaws disability discrimination. The protection starts when you apply for the job and extends to pay, hiring, promotions, training, benefits, firing, layoff, and more. In all these areas, your company cannot discriminate against someone with a disability.
For instance, a common type of job discrimination is asking about your medical problems when applying for work. It is illegal for an employer to ask about your medical conditions at any time in the hiring or employment process. It also is against the law for a company to refuse to provide reasonable accommodation for a mentally or physically disabled person.
The ADA also protects you at work from harassment. On the job, harassment of a disabled person could be offensive comments about your disability. If the comments are severe or frequent enough, this could be considered harassment in the workplace. For example, if you regularly hear comments about your inability to walk fast sufficiently between job stations, this could be illegal under the ADA. The person who harasses you could be a co-worker, supervisor, vendor, or even a customer.
Another way the ADA protects workers is it requires employers to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for those with disabilities. This responsibility starts before the organization even hires someone. So, the company must make reasonable accommodations in many areas, such as applications, interviews, medical exams, and employment advertisements.
It is critical to understand that a reasonable accommodation may not be the same for every disabled worker. For instance, if you are hard of hearing, you could need a sign language interpreter when you are being interviewed. Someone with limited sight could need the interviewer to read vital work-related information. If you had a stroke, you could need extra time from work for physical therapy.
Other types of reasonable accommodations the ADA mentions are:
The ADA expects the disabled person to make it known they have a disability so the employer can provide reasonable accommodation. However, the employer is not required to guess if you have a disability. According to the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you can use simple English to ask for reasonable accommodation. You do not need to mention the ADA or the term ‘reasonable accommodation’ when making a request.
Further, the EEOC states that the organization can ask workers with disabilities if they need a reasonable accommodation when they have a reason to think so. For instance, it is legal for the employer to ask a person with limited sight if they need accommodation when meeting with a customer. Likewise, if you use a wheelchair, the employer can ask if you can access a building.
When making an accommodation request, the request has to be reasonable. It cannot be an ‘undue hardship’ that would place excessive financial or logistical demands on the employer. The accommodations that are needed have to be reasonable and minimal.
For example, an undue hardship on the employer would be an extensive, disruptive, expensive accommodation that would alter their ability to do business. The company has to assess if the request for accommodation is reasonable or not. Some examples of undue hardships are:
If a company discriminates against you at work or during the application process, you should raise the matter with the company first. If you are employed with that firm, talk to the HR department about filing complaints. Turning in a complaint can be helpful later because it proves you tried to resolve the issue. If the company is aware of the situation, it may fix it quickly.
If the organization does not act, you should file a complaint with the EEOC. Under the law, you have 300 days to file the complaint if your state of residence has a law that outlaws disability discrimination. The EEO will tell your company about the complaint and investigate it. Then, when the EEOC processes the claim, you have 90 days to file suit after they send you a ‘right to sue’ letter.
If you think you have been discriminated against at work because of a disability, you could have a claim under the ADA. Our ADA attorneys in Chicago can help. Please contact North Suburban Legal Services today at (312) 909-6089 for assistance.