Published on: July 3, 2018
The federal American With Disability Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, making it illegal for employers, including private, state and local government, and labor organizations, to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. This doesn’t just apply to hiring practices—it also includes recruitment, promotions, training, type of work, and firing on the basis of disability.
Your Rights Under the ADA
The ADA refers to a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits any major life activity. So how is substantial defined? According to the ADA, this includes impairments that significantly limit speaking, seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, and the ability to perform manual tasks. To be covered under ADA law, potential employees must be able to perform the qualifications of the job despite their limitations, and must fulfill the job’s stated requirements just as any other applicant (education, experience, skills, etc.). Employers may not refuse to hire a disabled individual if the disability limits the ability to perform tasks that are not considered essential to the job.
If a disabled person fulfills the qualifications of a position, and their disability would not limit their ability to meet work requirements, ADA laws requires that the employer make reasonable accommodations that would allow the disabled employee to enjoy the same rights and benefits afforded to employees without disability. What exactly is a reasonable accommodation? The ADA states that the accommodation cannot require significant financial hardship on the employer (this was put into place for the benefit of small businesses that may not have the means to immediately make accommodations). Some of the reasonable accommodations may include the following:
- Allowing for a modified work schedule
- Installing new or modifying existing equipment to make the workplace more accessible by people with disabilities
- Job restructuring or reassignment to another position
- Providing interpreters
Requiring Medical Examinations
Under ADA law, employers cannot ask a disabled applicant to submit to a medical examination as a condition to employment, unless that same requirement applies to all employees. Upon employment, employers are allowed to conduct medical examinations on a voluntary basis, such as those related to a health or wellness program, and an exam will likely be required if a workers' compensation claim is ever filed (this, again, pertains to all employees). If there are concerns about lasting career-related effects of a medical examination, it's important to know that they are considered 100% confidential and cannot be used to damage future positions you may apply for.
Where We Stand Today
While rates of employment among disabled Americans has steadily increased since the ADA law came into effect, their employment is still about half of that for those without disabilities (36% versus 77%). Earnings for the disabled, while also steadily increasing, remain much lower than their non-disabled counterparts. Average earnings for Americans without disability is about $32,000, while disabled Americans report earnings at just over $22,000. Thankfully, programs like Ticket to Work are helping Social Security disability beneficiaries re-enter to workplace.
The lower rates of pay likely contribute to the higher incidence of poverty status among those with disability (13% for non-disabled Americans versus 21% for disabled Americans). A new bill, H.R. 620, also has disabled Americans fearing for their rights (read more about this bill in our story here).
Have You Been Discriminated Against?
If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your disability, you may choose to contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This federal agency administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination complaints based on an individual's race, children, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. You must contact the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act (some state and local laws also allow for a 300 day period).
We’re Here For You
The Disability Experts of Florida remain vigilant when it comes to protecting the rights of the disabled and helping them achieve the benefits they are entitled to. If you feel you’ve been unfairly discriminated against due to disability and would like to contact one of our caring experts, you can speak with us at 855-777-0455 or reach us online here.