What is the Americans With Disabilities Act?

What is the Americans With Disabilities Act

If you are disabled, you are protected from discrimination on the basis of your disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This law prohibits disability discrimination in public accommodations, employment, commercial facilities, state and local government, telecommunications and transportation. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your disability at your job, the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler may be able to help.

What is a disability under the ADA?

Under the ADA, people are considered to be disabled if they have or are believed to have mental or physical impairments that cause them substantial limitations in major life activities. These activities include such things as learning, seeing, talking or walking. Not all of the covered impairments are named in the ADA, but some common examples include blindness, learning disabilities, some mental illnesses, deafness and being confined to a wheelchair.

Title I of the ADA and employment

Under Title I, employers who have at least 15 employees are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability in all of their employment decisions, including the following:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotions
  • Training

Employers are also not allowed to inquire about an applicant’s disability. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have disabilities unless doing so would result in an undue hardship.

If you have a complaint against an employer under Title I, you must file it with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission no more than 180 days from the date that the discrimination occurred or 300 days if you file your complaint with a local fair employment practice agency. You may not file a lawsuit in court until you have received a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC.

Title II of the ADA and state and local governments

State and local governments are covered under Title II of the ADA no matter their size. They must offer equal opportunities to disabled people so that they can benefit from all of their services, programs and activities, including public education, social services, health care and recreation.

Local and state governments must adhere to architectural guidelines when they construct new buildings, and they must relocate programs from older, inaccessible buildings or make them accessible. Governments must also effectively communicate with people who have different disabilities and make reasonable and necessary modifications unless the modifications would fundamentally alter their activities, programs or services. Modifications may also be avoided if they would result in an undue administrative and financial burden.

You are able to file a complaint against a local or state government with the U.S. Department of Justice. The complaint must be filed no later than 180 days from the date of the discrimination. The DOJ may file a lawsuit if it is unable to resolve violations. You can also simply choose to file a lawsuit in federal court without first complaining to the Department of Justice under Title II.

ADA Title II and public transportation

Under Title II, public transportation authorities are prohibited from disability discrimination in their services. They have to have accessibility options in new vehicles and to make good faith efforts to lease or purchase accessible used or remanufactured buses. Unless it would present an undue burden, they are also supposed to offer paratransit services on fixed-route bus or rail systems. Complaints about transportation discrimination should be made to the Federal Transit Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

ADA Title III and public accommodations

Public accommodations must also adhere to certain requirements that prohibit segregation, exclusion and unequal treatment. Title III requires that policies, practices and procedures be reasonably modified. Barriers in existing buildings making up public accommodations must also be removed if it is not overly difficult or expensive to do so.

Educational courses and tests must be offered in a location and manner that is accessible to people who have disabilities, or there must be alternatives offered. Commercial facilities must also comply with the architectural standards for alterations and new construction.

Title III complaints can be filed with the DOJ. It may bring a lawsuit if it finds that there is a practice or pattern of discrimination that violates Title III or if a discriminatory act raises an issue of public importance. You are also able to enforce Title II claims through private lawsuits.

ADA Title IV and telecommunications

Common carriers are required by Title IV of the ADA to have interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that are available 24 hours per day and seven days per week. These services allow callers who have speech and hearing disabilities to use text telephones to communicate with people who are using voice telephones. Closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements is also required.

Contact Our Attorneys

If you have been discriminated against based on a disability, you may need legal help. Contact the experienced team at Swartz Swidler to learn about your rights.