Overview of Disability Discrimination Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act As Amended (ADAAA), as well as some similar state laws including the Missouri Human Rights Act and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, prohibits employers from discriminating against otherwise qualified employees on the basis of disability. The law forbids disability discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and other conditions of employment. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, who are otherwise qualified to perform the necessary job functions.

The ADAAA also protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability (even if they do not themselves have a disability). For example, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because her husband has a disability. It is also illegal to harass an applicant or employee because of his or her disability. Although, simple teasing or off-hand comments may not constitute disability harassment, it may become harassment when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or intolerable work environment.

The ADAAA not only protects against unlawful discrimination by employers but also by certain “public entities,” such as schools and “private entities,” such as restaurants.

Overview of Reasonable Accommodation:

“Reasonable accommodations” include those adjustments that assist employees in the performance of the essential job functions, without creating an undue hardship on the employer. A reasonable accommodation is a change in the work conditions or environments to help a person with a disability apply for the job, perform their duties, or enjoy the benefits or privileges of employment.

Some examples of a reasonable accommodation may include, making the workplace wheelchair accessible, providing a special chair for the employee, providing special computer equipment to help an employee perform their job, modifying equipment or devices, or modifying the work schedule or hours. Determination of whether an accommodation is reasonable or whether it creates an undue hardship on the employer is determined on a case-by-case basis.

An employee with a disability who needs an accommodation to assist in the performance of necessary job duties should first discuss the need with the employer.

Overview of the Definition of Disability:

On September 25, 2008, Congress signed into law the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which clarified the definition of “disability” under the ADA. These amendments apply to potential ADA violations occurring after January 1, 2009.