Federal Employment Law - The Americans with Disabilities Act

Day 5

Hello! How are you doing? I hope you still remember the past three laws, because we’re about to discuss the fourth one enforced by the EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

This Act “prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments”

Come to think of it, who would want to be disabled? Who doesn’t like to be normal like everybody else, and do the normal activities?

Unfortunately, some people are born lacking certain human faculties, (some are born deaf, blind, mute) thus limiting their opportunities. But that should not undermine their capacity to work. They are the people who should draw our sympathies, and instead of making them feel more helpless, we must encourage them that they can also do some good in a company.

As Hellen Keller once said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an unchartered land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit” To see a normal individual succeed in the workplace is one thing, but to see a disabled individual making progress is another.

So under this law, it is prohibited to discriminate persons with disabilities in all employment aspects. (hiring, promotion, firing, salaries, benefits, trainings, use of facilities) If an individual with disability is qualified for the job, meaning he can perform the “essential functions” despite his disability, then he should not be least prioritized in applications, let alone, treated any less.

First, we have to determine, who are disabled? Who are protected in this law?

EEOC qualifies the disabled as someone who:

1. has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
2. has a record of such an impairment; or
3. is being regarded as having such an impairment.

We couldn’t expect people with disability to do every single required task like normal people would. This is where “reasonable accommodation” comes to the picture, where the employer makes the necessary adjustments for the disabled employees. If the budget of the company permits them to hand out hearing aids for hearing impaired employees, then that should be done. If the company can afford to have training materials and manuals be written in brail for the blind, then it should be carried out.

Of course, there are restrictions to these accommodations. If modifying the system of the company to suit the needs of the disabled would have an adverse effect to the efficiency of the business itself, then that would be labeled as “undue hardship” If the company doesn’t have enough money to raise wheelchairs for lame workers, then that would be a valid excuse not to provide them.

Employment discrimination against qualified individuals is not only outlawed in private sectors, but in federal government as well. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 “protects the employment rights of disabled individuals applying to and working for a federal agency or to a business or institution under federal contract or receiving federal funds”

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll be discussing the last federal law under EEOC, the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

For further reading, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website

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