Disability Discrimination

Unlawful disability discrimination can occur when an employer treats a disabled employee unfavorably because of the employee’s disability.  It can also occur when an employer fails to provide a “reasonable accommodations” for a disabled employee, which could include anything from adding a wheelchair ramp to changing an employee’s job description.

Patterson Harkavy’s attorneys have helped protect the rights of disabled employees across North Carolina.  If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability, or if you need assistance securing a reasonable accommodation from your employer, contact us to see if we can help.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal civil rights act with provisions that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. It protects against disability discrimination in employment, government services, and public accommodations.

Who is covered under the ADA?

The ADA offers employment protections to anyone with a disability, anyone who is perceived to have a disability, or anyone who has a relationship or association with someone who has a disability.  Under the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.”  A major life activity includes activities such as breathing, seeing, caring for oneself, learning, or walking.

For many years, the ADA only applied to individuals with permanent or long-term limits in a major life activity.  However, in 2008 Congress expanded the definition of what is considered a “disability” under the ADA.  Because of these amendments, individuals suffering from temporary impediments may also be protected.  For example, an employee who is unable to walk for several months because of an accident may now qualify as a disabled individual under the ADA.

What does the ADA require from employers?

Under Title I of the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees must provide qualified employees with disabilities equal employment opportunities.  An individual with a disability is considered qualified for a job if she can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.  Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for their employees with known physical or mental disabilities if requested by the employee. These accommodations are intended to remove barriers from the employee’s ability to perform their essential job duties and benefit from the full-range of privileges gained from employment, such as equal access to information and the opportunity to participate in job training.

Reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Alterations to the work facility, such as adding a wheelchair ramp or an elevator so the employee can reach their office space
  • Changing an employee’s job description or schedule so that their disability doesn’t prevent them from fulfilling the job’s essential duties
  • Modifying or purchasing adaptive equipment so the employee can do their job, such as raising a desk to fit their wheelchair or purchasing a special keyboard or phone adapter
  • Altering tests, assessments, policies, or training
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters

However, if making an accommodation will result in “undue hardship” for the employer, the employer is not required to make the accommodation. The hardship can be financial in nature, but also includes situations where the needed accommodation would be disruptive or would alter the nature of the business.

What can I do?

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in your work place due to a disability or a perceived disability, call us at Patterson Harkavy toll free at 1-800-458-2541 or contact us online today.