In 2007, there were more than seventeen thousand complaints of disability discrimination in the workplace. According to Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified applicants in any capacity of work, including selection, promotion, firing or compensation based on their disabilities.
An individual with a disability is defined as a person having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, having a record of such impairment or has been regarded as having such impairment. A qualified applicant is defined as someone who with or without reasonable accommodation can perform job functions necessary to the position. Reasonable accommodation can include making existing facilities readily accessible by people with physical impairments, job restructuring or modifying or adding equipment or devices.
As defined by the law, employers are not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation, which can make a charge of disability discrimination complex legally. The employer can argue that an accommodation qualifies as an undue hardship depending on the cost of the accommodation, the structure of the business and/or the effect the accommodation would have on the business. While disability discrimination is not limited to any particular set of circumstances, there are two main situations under which discrimination typically occurs.
Failure to hire is the first situation. When a disabled individual applies for a position for which he is qualified, but is not hired due to his or her disability, he or she may file a failure to hire claim. During the interview process, the potential employer is capable of violating the law in various ways. One of these is by asking certain questions as to the severity of the disability or how the disability will impact the applicant’s on-the-job performance.
The other type of disability discrimination which can face individuals is a failure by their employer to make reasonable accommodations. Defining what reasonable accommodations are can be a very complex matter. Generally speaking, they are pretty minor allowances, without great cost, that allow an individual with a disability to perform their job better. The following are examples of reasonable allowances: adjusting the desktop to accommodate an employee in a wheelchair, providing a distraction-free workplace for employees with ADD, providing TDD telephone equipment, and adjusting time schedules. The above list is by no means complete.