What is the American With Disabilities Act?

Discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex or nationality has been illegal since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, it was not until 1990 that people living with a disability received similar protection through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While this has not eradicated such discrimination, it gives you legal recourse if an employer discriminates against you because of your disability.

Are all employers subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The law only applies to private employers with more than 15 employees. It covers most state and federal employers, labor unions and some other organizations, regardless of size. Employers cannot discriminate against you in the following:

  • Hiring or firing
  • Promotions
  • Training
  • Wages
  • Social activities

The aim of the law is not to give you special treatment, as some might claim. Its purpose is to even out the playing field and permit you to compete for employment on equal terms.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

One aspect of the law is that your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your disability unless it causes them undue financial hardship. When judging what is reasonable in a dispute, a court would consider the employer’s size and economic means, as well as the cost and complication of providing what you are asking. They would typically hold a larger company to higher standards.

Examples of reasonable accommodation could include:

  • Providing you with a voice dictation system if you are unable to type manually
  • Altering your work station to permit a standing desk if you are unable to sit all-day
  • Moving your desk closer to the entrance to make it easier for you to access
  • Allowing you extra breaks to deal with your personal medical needs
  • Permitting you time off when you have a medical appointment

There are no hard and fast rules as to what is and is not a reasonable accommodation. It all comes down to the individual case. If you feel your employer has discriminated against you due to your disability, you may want legal help to assess your situation and determine what actions you could take.