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The ADA: An employment law acronym of key importance

On Behalf of | May 18, 2021 | Employment Law

“Disability discrimination isn’t supposed to happen.”

So notes one proven California legal source on employment law and workers’ on-the-job rights. A bedrock principle in America’s vast and diverse work realm is that fair-handed treatment of all employees should be a flat given. Workplaces bring together individuals with singular attributes and defining traits. All those persons should be treated equitably and with undifferentiated respect.

And yet that isn’t always the case, is it?

In fact, America’s rich work history couples opportunity and progressively enhanced labor rights/conditions with stark challenges for select groups of employees. They have fought over time to realize equal workplace treatment and conditions.

The enactment of key federal laws has been instrumental to furthering that goal. The Civil Rights Act of 1964’s seminal Title VII provisions set forth safeguards that protect workers of enumerated “protected” categories against workplace harassment and discrimination. Those classifications range from race, national origin and sex to pregnancy, religion and other identifiers.

The Civil Rights Act was subsequently augmented by other important federal laws extending workplace protections. Today’s post spotlights one specific piece of legislation that has played a crucial role in fostering work equality.

The ADA: federal law providing for vital workplace protections

The ADA designation is the widely employed shorthand identifier for the Americans with Disabilities Act, important legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990.

The ADA addressed this key need: the promotion of equal rights for disabled workers assured by the implementation of firm requirements imposed on employers with 15 or more employees. The ADA applies to all prospective and actual workers meeting the Act’s definition of “disabled” (any substantial limiting of a “major life activity”).

ADA specifics: spotlighting an employer’s duty

An online legal overview of the ADA and its requirements notes that it addresses disability discrimination “in hiring, promotions, training and other privileges of employment.”

These two takeaways are central regarding the legislation:

  • Imposition on an employer to make “a reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities”
  • Exemption from acting in demonstrated cases of “undue hardship”

What qualifies as undue hardship? Although there can be some subjectivity in the analysis, common sense determinations often prevail. A blind individual might be able to fully perform work duties with help from a seeing-eye dog. A person in a wheelchair might be rendered fully mobile at the workplace with the simple building of a ramp. A few special technological assists and/or workplace configurations might materially help a disabled worker.

Any individual confronting a prospective or current employer that refuses to make reasonable workplace accommodations might reasonably want to reach out for guidance and diligent representation to an established employment law legal team.