Disability Discrimination

Three weeks ago, we celebrated our nation's Independence Day. Today we're here to rejoice in and celebrate another "independence day," one that is long overdue. With today's signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom... This historic act is the world's first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities - the first. Its passage has made the United States the international leader on this human rights issue."

- President George H.W. Bush, July 26, 1990 (on the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990)

Whether you have battled cancer that is currently in remission, use a wheelchair, are blind, or recently experienced a prolonged temporary illness, it is inexcusable and illegal for your employer to treat you any differently from other workers because of that condition. At Haynes & Haynes, P.C., we are committed to standing up for Alabama workers victimized by disability discrimination. We know you have worked hard -- possibly harder than your colleagues -- to get to where you are today. You need someone who will work just as hard for you.

Our passionate and experienced team of attorneys dedicated and qualified to advise you about your rights. Fill out our online form or call us today at (205) 879-0377 to discuss your case. Let us ease your burden in this stressful time by holding your employer accountable and secure for you a workplace free from unlawful discrimination.

What Is Disability Discrimination?

An employer may not deny you a job because you have a physical or mental impairment which substantially affects a major life activity. If you are visually impaired, your employer must provide you with a means for obtaining information other than by delivering you printed memos or posting information on office bulletin boards. If you are hearing impaired, you have the right to a sign language interpreter or other means of communication, either during your initial interview or while on the job. If you are diabetic, you must be allowed sufficient meal breaks to eat and monitor your blood sugar and insulin levels.

If you have a physical or mental impairment which interferes with the performance of your job, or your employer believes that you have such an impairment, you may be entitled to relief under the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The ADA forbids employers from discriminating against individuals with a wide range of disabilities. That law applies to all employers, including state and local governments with 15 or more employees. The law defines a person with a disability as a person:

Having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and/or has a record of or is currently regarded as having such impairment.

Because the law is so vast and the definition of a "disability" applies to so many potential situations, it is always best to consult an attorney before deciding whether or not your rights under the ADA have been violated.

Rights for Employees with Disabilities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") establishes certain rights for employees and job applicants that have a disability. These rights include:

  • Freedom from harassment. A disabled person cannot be harassed regarding their disability in the workplace by supervisors, managers, or co-workers.
  • Reasonable accommodations. A person who suffers from a disability has the right to request reasonable accommodations to allow them to apply for a job, perform their job duties, or otherwise have the same benefits as other employees.
  • Privacy. An employer is very limited in what they can ask an employee about in regard to their health. 
  • Confidentiality. With limited exceptions, any information an employee does share with an employer in regard to their health must be kept confidential.
  • Freedom from retaliation. A person who does complain about disability discrimination, or is associated with a person who complains about disability discrimination, cannot be retaliated against. 

What Employers Should Be Doing

Employers not only are prohibited from engaging in disability discrimination; they must also provide reasonable accommodation(s) to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability unless the employer can prove that an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business. That means an employer must:

  • Make existing facilities readily accessible to an individual with a disability;
  • Restructure a job or modify a work schedule in a reasonable way to accommodate an individual with a disability;
  • Provide equipment and other assistive devices, as well as proper training materials, necessary to help an individual perform the essential functions of his or her job; and
  • Eliminate or reassign non-essential job duties which cannot be performed by an individual due to his or her disability.

The only time an employer does not have to provide such an accommodation is when, after consultation with the employee involved, such accommodation (and all other reasonable accommodations) would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business. This means straining the employer's resources or making changes that would put other workers at risk or lower the company's overall performance. Many employers will claim that hiring an individual with a disability would be harmful to the company, or that providing an accommodation would be an undue hardship, when that is not actually the case. Most accommodations involve little or no modification of company policies and usually involve little or no expense. That is why it is important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced on your side.

Disability Discrimination Statistics

The initial responsibility for enforcing the ADA lies with the EEOC. Individuals initiate ADA cases by filing a charge with the EEOC. The number of charges filed with the EEOC has increased substantially in the past two decades from 15,864 in 2000 to 25,004 in 2022. This increase reflects both an increase in the number of employers violating the law and amendments to the ADA which expanded the definition of "disability" and the scope of the statutes' protections. For a more comprehensive discussion of these statistics and the ADA, visit the EEOC website.

How Haynes & Haynes Can Help

As you can see, you are not alone in being discriminated against because of your disability. But you should not find comfort and strength in that fact. Rather, you need someone on your side that understands that being another victim is not enough. You need someone who will work for you to get you the equal treatment in the workplace that you deserve; someone who will stand up to your current or former employer on your behalf. That is why Haynes & Haynes, P.C., is here. We are here to stand up for Alabama workers and their families. We are not intimidated by any employer, regardless of its size or the law firms representing it. Fill out our online form or give us a call today at (205) 879-0377 to discuss your case. The consultation is always free.