Disability Discrimination FAQs
Understanding Disability Discrimination: FAQs
Navigating workplace laws related to disabilities can be complex for both employers and employees. Below, find answers to frequently asked questions about disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and federal and state discrimination laws.
What Qualifies as a Disability Under the ADA?
To be protected under the ADA, individuals must have a physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities. The impairment should be permanent or long-term. Short-term conditions may not qualify. For assistance with short-term illnesses, consider Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law and Massachusetts Paid Family Leave Law.
Determining Disability Eligibility: How Do I Know if My Disability Qualifies for Protection?
Eligibility for protection depends on whether the condition limits a "major life activity." Major life activities include walking, seeing, reading, bending, and communicating. It also encompasses major bodily functions such as the immune system, digestive, bowel, bladder, respiratory, neurological, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
ADA Coverage: What Employers are Covered?
The ADA protects individuals from disability discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees. This includes private employers, state, and local governments. Federal employees are safeguarded by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Beyond employment, the ADA also prohibits disability discrimination in places of public accommodations.
Does My Employer Have to Accommodate My Disability?
Employers subject to the ADA must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. An employee's disclosure of a disability triggers the duty for the employer to engage in an interactive process to determine if an accommodation is reasonable. If reasonable accommodations are possible, the employer must implement them.
Who is a Qualified Individual Under the ADA?
To be protected by disability laws, one must be a qualified individual with a disability. This means being able to perform essential job functions with reasonable accommodations.
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
Employers must make reasonable changes to the workplace environment, but only if they are feasible and enable employees to perform essential job functions. What is reasonable varies depending on individual circumstances and the undue burden it imposes on the employer. Collective bargaining agreements can also influence the disability analysis.
Can I Get an ADA Accommodation on a Job Application or Test?
Employees who disclose their disabilities and request accommodations should receive them if reasonable. Accommodations may include extra time for tests or excusal from certain test sections. Employing assistive devices during tests is another possibility.
What is an Essential Job Function?
Need Help With a Disability Issue?
Essential job functions are fundamental duties. Employers must consider accommodations for disabilities that don't affect essential job functions. For instance, an office worker with a visual disability might use assistive technology to fulfill essential tasks. In contrast, it would likely not be possible to accommodate a significant sight impairment for an employee whose essential job function was driving.
Do I Have to Disclose My Disability on a Job Application?
Job applicants are not obligated to disclose disabilities during the application or interview process. Employers cannot legally refuse to hire based on disabilities. However, there's a practical risk of discrimination, so disclosure may become necessary later. It does not have to be on the job application.
What is Perceived Disability Discrimination?
Discriminating against employees regarded as having a disability is also prohibited. Perceived disability discrimination occurs when an employer makes assumptions about an employee's limitations. It may happen after employees return from medical leaves or when stigma surrounds certain conditions.
How Can I Identify Discrimination?
Detecting discrimination based on medical conditions or disabilities can be challenging. Key questions include whether you were treated differently than colleagues without disabilities and whether negative comments about your condition were made. When in doubt, consult an employment lawyer for a comprehensive analysis.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Discrimination Complaint?
Federal and state law require you to make a disability complaint within 300 days of the relevant event. This event is usually the adverse employment action. This can be the date you were terminated or the date you learned that they refused to hire you. For a failure to accommodate claim, this is usually the date you were told they were not going to accommodate your disability.
How Do I File a Discrimination Complaint?
The initial step is to submit a complaint with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Later on, you retain the right to withdraw your claim and file a lawsuit. As long as you approach one of these agencies within 300 days of the relevant event, you safeguard your right to pursue your claim in court.
Wondering What Your Rights Are If You Are Dealing With a Disability or Illness at Work?
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How Our Employment Lawyers Can Help
Navigating disability discrimination issues can be complex, but our experienced team is here to provide expert guidance and support to protect your rights in the workplace. You can use the button below to schedule a call back from a member of our team, or give us a call at 781-784-2322.