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Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

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For millions of Americans living with disabilities, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) did more than open doors to the workplace; it signaled a shift in civil rights awareness that continues to evolve and expand its protections to other demographics within our society. The act made it unlawful for employers to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.

To be protected under the ADA, you must have a substantial impairment, meaning one that significantly limits or restricts your ability to see, hear, speak, breathe, walk, learn, care for oneself, or perform manual tasks. You also have to be qualified to perform the essential functions (meaning fundamental duties) of a job with or without reasonable accommodation.

Disability discrimination cases typically hinge on what the essential functions of a job are and whether an accommodation creates an “undue burden” on the employer (if it does, they do not need to make the accommodation).

Because it can be challenging to prove discrimination, it is crucial to hire an experienced attorney to represent you. A lawyer who has successfully handled discrimination cases will investigate your claim and will seek evidence that the employer violated the ADA in some way. To discuss your case with an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer in Des Moines, contact Higgins Law Firm, PLLC by calling (515) 619-9148 to schedule a confidential consultation with us today.

What Employers Are Covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

It is illegal for any employer to discriminate against a person with disabilities if they are:

  • A private company,
  • A state or local government,
  • A labor organization,
  • A labor-management committee,
  • An employment agency

If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, your employer cannot discriminate against you.

What Practices are Covered by the ADA?

Employment practices that the ADA covers include:

  • Recruiting
  • Hiring
  • Training
  • Job assignments
  • Benefits
  • Leave
  • Pay
  • Promotions
  • Termination
  • Layoffs

If your employer retaliates against you for asserting your rights under the ADA, they are also violating the law. Be sure to contact an attorney and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) right away if you’ve experienced retaliation due to your disability.

Discrimination: If You See Something, Say Something

Encompassing the criteria outlined in job applications to the hiring process, compensation and advancement, disability discrimination can occur in all types of work environments and industries. Some common examples of workplace discrimination against disabled persons include:

  • Employment: Nearly any aspect of employment is protected, ranging from hiring, pay, promotions to layoffs and training; the law forbids employers from discriminating against individuals based on disability.
  • Environment: Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to alleviate undue hardship for their employees. This could mean updating facilities for wheelchair access or installing bathroom facilities that more easily accommodate disabled persons.
  • Harassment: When teasing or other comments cross the line into harassment, it’s the employer’s responsibility to step in, take action and provide a safe, comfortable environment for everyone.
  • Privacy: In most cases it is illegal for an employer to ask employees or applicants to answer personal medical questions or complete a medical examination as a prerequisite to employment.

Whether you, a family member or a co-worker is experiencing workplace discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference or because of a permanent or temporary disability, it’s important to speak out and take legal action with the help of a skilled lawyer.

Can an Employer Ask Me About My Disability?

When you are applying for a job, an employer is not allowed to ask you if you are disabled or ask questions about the nature or severity of your disability. They are, however, allowed to ask if you can perform the duties of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. They could also ask you to demonstrate how you’d perform the duties with reasonable accommodation. These questions are permitted by law.

Can an Employer Require Me to Undergo a Medical Examination?

Under the ADA, an employer is not allowed to require you to undergo a medical examination prior to offering you a job. They can offer you a position contingent on the passing of a required medical examination, however, but only if all other employees applying for the same job have to take the examination as well. The employer is not allowed to deny you the job if you can perform the essential functions of the position without accommodation.

What Damages are Available If I Win a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit?

If you’ve been discriminated against due to your disability, you could be eligible to take legal action against your employer under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be eligible for several types of damages if you pursue and win a disability discrimination case. Damages that could be awarded include:

  • Lost wages and back pay
  • Out of pocket losses (if wrongfully terminated)
  • Front pay – if you’re unlikely to find a job for some time into the future
  • Damages for emotional distress
  • Attorney’s fees and other costs of pursuing the legal action
  • Punitive damages – awarded only in rare circumstances when employers willfully or intentionally break the law

As with any legal action, be sure to speak with an experienced disability discrimination lawyer who will evaluate the facts of your case, let you know how strong your case is, and the types of damages you likely could receive.

An Attorney Protecting the Civil Rights of Iowa Workers

At our firm, we don’t just talk about doing the right thing; we put our words into action. We know that making positive social changes often requires strong legal action. At Higgins Law Firm, PLLC, we put our experience and tested methods to work protecting those who want to make their workplaces safe for all employees. During an initial consultation we can discuss your issue, go over the law, including the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and come up with creative solutions for presenting a strong case.

Schedule a free initial consultation at our Des Moines law office by dialing (515) 619-9148 or complete our online contact form.