People who have qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act are protected against discrimination at their jobs. Under the law, private and governmental employers, labor unions, and employment agencies are prohibited from discriminating against people who are disabled in all aspects of employment. The law covers employers in the U.S. that have 15 or more employees along with labor unions and employment agencies. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler represent employees who have faced discrimination based on qualifying disabilities under the ADA.
What is a disability under the ADA?
A person is considered to have a disability under the ADA if he or she has a mental or physical impairment that poses a substantial limitation in one or more major activities of daily life. A person will also qualify if he or she has a record of having a qualifying impairment or is perceived to have a disability.
A disabled applicant or employee is considered to be qualified if he or she can perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations are changes that employers make that make the facilities that employees use accessible to people who are disabled. They also include such things as modified work schedules, restructuring jobs, modifying or acquiring equipment, adjusting or modifying policies, training materials, or examinations, and other similar changes.
Employees are required to ask for reasonable accommodations. Employers must offer reasonable accommodations if the requested accommodations will not pose an undue hardship on the employer’s business operations. The accommodations may vary based on the needs of an individual employee. For example, an applicant who is deaf may need to have an interpreter present during a job interview. Someone who is blind might need to have information that is posted at work read to him or her or have the notice available in Braille.
Undue hardship is something that would require substantial expense or difficulty in light of the employer’s financial resources, size, and the nature of the requested accommodation. Employers are not required to reduce their quality standards to make accommodations or to provide certain items of personal use, including hearing aids or glasses.
Employers are not expected to anticipate the need for reasonable accommodations. Instead, employees must ask for them. If an employer thinks that a disability might be causing a performance problem, the employer can ask the employee if he or she might need an accommodation. If the issue might be solved by more than one accommodation, an employer might choose the least expensive option.
What other things are covered under the ADA?
Other things that are covered under the ADA include medical exams, medical inquiries, and the confidentiality of medical records. Employers are not allowed to ask applicants about the severity, nature, or existence of a perceived disability. Employers may not condition a job offer on the results of a medical examination unless the examination is required for all new employees who will work in similar positions. Medical examinations that are requested must also be related to the jobs that the workers will perform.
Employers are required to keep the medical information of their employees confidential with few exceptions. When an employer learns about the medical information of an employee or applicant, the employer cannot divulge that information to others. The protected information includes information that does not include a diagnosis or course of treatment. For example, an employee’s request for accommodation is confidential medical information under the ADA.
Substance abuse disorders are generally not covered by the ADA. Employees who engage in illegal drug use are not protected by the ADA when their employers act because of their use. Employers are allowed to test for illegal drugs and are not restricted from doing so under the ADA’s restrictions on medical tests. Employers are allowed to hold workers who use drugs or alcohol to the same standards to which they hold other employees.
Employers are not allowed to retaliate against workers who oppose discriminatory employment practices based on disability or for filing complaints about disability discrimination. This prohibition extends to retaliation based on participating in an investigation, litigation, or proceeding under the ADA.
Tax incentives for employing people with disabilities
Several provisions in the Internal Revenue Code are focused on making businesses more accessible to disabled people. Three of the most important provisions include the small business tax credit, the work opportunity tax credit, and the architectural and transportation tax deduction.
The small business tax credit applies to small businesses that are defined as having $1 million or less in revenue or 30 or fewer employees. These businesses are allowed to claim a credit of up to $5,000 each year to reimburse them for the cost of providing reasonable accommodations or for removing physical barriers.
The work opportunity tax credit is available to employers who hire employees from specific low-income groups, including people who have been referred by vocational rehabilitation agencies and people who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits. These employers may be able to claim an annual credit of up to $2,400 for each employee who works a minimum of 400 hours during the year. The employers may also claim a credit of up to $1,200 for qualifying summer youth workers.
The architectural or transportation tax deduction is an annual deduction that is available to businesses of all sizes of up to $15,000. This deduction can be claimed by businesses for the costs that they incur to provide accessible ramps, walkways, entrances, parking spaces, wheelchair-accessible phones, restrooms, and water fountains.
Get help from experienced disability discrimination lawyers
If you have a qualifying disability and have been discriminated against by your employer because of your condition, you may be entitled to file a discrimination claim against your employer. The experienced attorneys at Swartz Swidler can evaluate your claim and provide you with an honest assessment of its merits. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by filling out our online contact form.