Recognizing that many disabled people were being held back from holding jobs they could excel at, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Among other things, the ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to allow disabled employees or job applicants to do their tasks.
Lawmakers deliberately left vague what they meant by “reasonable accommodations.” Thus, determining what a business must do to accommodate a particular worker can be a case-by-case process.
Unfortunately, many employers try to take advantage of the situation. They may refuse requested accommodations, like a place for the worker to sit while on the job or regular breaks, as not “reasonable.” This can seem to leave a worker with the unenviable choice of trying to work despite the lack of accommodation, or quitting. However, litigation could be another option, especially if several co-workers are in the same boat.
The ADA provides other protections against workplace discrimination commonly suffered by disabled people. A disability is not a legal reason to treat a disabled worker differently with regard to:
- Hiring or firing
As with any form of employment discrimination, disability discrimination is based on the false belief that people with disabilities are inferior workers. While it is true that some disabilities make some types of jobs impossible, with reasonable accommodation many people are able to do their jobs as well as, if not better than, those without the same challenges. Refusing to hire disabled people, or failing to accommodate their conditions, is thus more than against the law; it is bad business.