Defining Disability Discrimination

By: Gregg Zeff
On: June 27, 2024

disability discrimination

What Constitutes Disability Discrimination?

According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), in order for disability discrimination in the workplace to be established, a situation must meet the following qualifications: 

  • A person defined by the ADA to be an employer, given that they work within an industry of commerce, and that they supervise 15 or more people for 20 weeks or more. 
  • The employee has a disability, as defined by the ADA. This individual has a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major aspects of their life’s activities. A disability can also be classified if the employer perceives a physical or mental impairment. 
  • The employee is qualified and capable of performing essential work functions, either with or without reasonable accommodations. 
  • An adverse change in the terms, privileges, duration or conditions of the employment is made.

Examples of Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

There are many examples of adverse actions in the workplace including discharge, refusal to hire, refusal to promote, demotion, reduction in pay, reprimands, or negative evaluation letters. If any of these actions are demonstrated by an employer due to an employee’s defined disability, it qualifies as a case of disability discrimination

However, in order for an employee to assert that their disability was the cause of this adverse action, they must provide substantial proof that they had previously met the legitimate expectations of their employer. In other words, the plaintiff must cite evidence that indicates that they were in good standing with others in the workplace, to ensure that this adverse action was not a result of poor performance or inappropriate behavior. If the defendant has a written record of a formal complaint, negative performance review, or another indicator of incompetency, then there is no basis for discrimination.

The Power of Protection: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Explained

The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to provide guidelines that will help make public places (in addition to public electronic sites and tools) more accessible for individuals with disabilities. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits an individual from performing major life activities. Additionally, a person can be classified as disabled if they have a written record of their condition. An individual’s place of employment is no exception to public places; the ADA’s principles extend to prevent disability discrimination in the workplace as well.


How the ADA Safeguards the Rights of Individuals with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act has five main sections that inform its guidelines: 

  • Employment – Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for both job applicants and employees with disclosed disabilities. Disability discrimination in the workplace is strictly prohibited. 
  • Public Services – Services or programs that are available to the general public cannot be denied to someone with a disability. Accommodations must be put into place to make these services accessible to everyone. 
  • Public Accommodations – Facilities such as restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores must be modified or constructed in such a way to accommodate those with disabilities. 
  • Telecommunications – Telephone services must provide devices that can help to accommodate individuals who are deaf, or hard of hearing. 
  • Miscellaneous – It is forbidden to threaten or coerce individuals with disabilities.

Employment Rights: Ensuring Equal Opportunities in the Workplace

To ensure equal opportunities in the workplace, employers are required to offer accommodations to disabled individuals, to assist them in completing all necessary tasks of the occupation. If employers fail to provide reasonable accommodations, they are putting disabled workers at a disadvantage by preventing them from thriving in the workplace. Therefore, by no permitting accommodations, employers are allowing disability discrimination in the workplace, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Reasonable Accommodations: Working Together for a Level Playing Field

With a diverse group of individuals in the workforce, there are several ways in which employers must accommodate workers to avoid disability discrimination in the workplace. This includes modifying work sites, restructuring jobs, and/or changing policies to make the work environment more accessible, and the tasks more manageable for employees. This is not an exhaustive list, as there are many ways in which employers must accommodate both physical and mental impairments. Remember that these accommodations do not make the jobs “easier” for individuals with disabilities. Rather, these modifications help to reinforce the idea of workplace equity: uplifting those who are at a disadvantage, and giving them a chance to succeed.

Know Your Rights: Contact Zeff Law Firm to discuss your legal options

If you believe you have been mistreated in the workplace due to your disability, you may be a victim of disability discrimination. Contact the experienced employment lawyers at Zeff Law Firm today, to get the justice you deserve!

Take Action & Contact Us Today

All Consultations are Free and Confidential

Get a Free Consultation