Disability Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because the employee has a disability. The ADA applies to workplaces with 15 or more employees. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies to federal employees and applicants and offers many of the same protections as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because disability law is complex, contact an Atlanta disability discrimination attorney to learn more about your rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

What is a "Disability" under the ADA?

Not all individuals with a medical condition are covered by the ADA. In order to be protected under the ADA, a person must have a legally-defined disability and be qualified for the position. Under the ADA, a person may be considered disabled if:

  • The individual has a condition (either mental or physical) that substantially limits a major life activity (walking, seeing, learning, talking or hearing)
  • The individual has a history of a disability
  • The individual is believed to have an impairment (mental or physical)

In fiscal year 2012, 26,379 disability-related discrimination charges were filed with the EEOC. The number of claims has been increasing steadily since the 2008 recession.

Reasonable Accommodation

Under the ADA, an employer must provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or a job applicant who has a disability, unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardship can mean unreasonable expense or difficulty in providing the accommodation. Undue hardship to a business is determined on a case-by-case basis, as it depends on the size of the employer, the financial resources available, and the business's function.

Reasonable accommodations include any type of change in the workplace that helps a person with a disability perform job duties, such as including a wheelchair ramp or providing an interpreter for someone who is hearing-impaired.

Under the ADA, an employee who is disabled may make recommendations about the type of accommodations that are provided. However, the employee does not have to follow these recommendations if another suitable option can be found. For questions related to reasonable accommodations, contact an attorney at Mays & Kerr for assistance.

How Should Employers Handle Applicants with Disabilities?

The ADA prevents employers from gathering any medical information from job applicants. Employers may not ask questions of a medical nature, including questions about the nature of a particular disability. Employers may ask questions related to an applicant's ability to perform the job with or without reasonable accommodation. An employer is allowed to condition a job offer on the applicant's answers to certain medical questions or take a medical exam, but only if all new hires for the same type of job are required to provide the same medical information. A potential employee cannot be singled out for these questions or tests simply because of a disability or a perceived disability.

When a person with a disability is hired, an employer can only request medical information as needed to support the employee's request for a reasonable accommodation.

For more information on the ADA or for assistance with a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, contact the attorneys at the law firm of Mays & Kerr.