Discrimination on Disability

Author: Yana St. Clair Esq.

Discrimination on Disability

While every country addresses this issue differently, we will have a look at the way it is handled in the U.S. By passing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), The U.S. Congress expanded the protection beyond just federal contractors, thus addressing comprehensively the problem of discrimination based on disability. The procedures for handling an ADA case and the available remedies are similar to those for Title VII, which were covered in detail in previous issues. Since July 1994, the entities covered under ADA are also employers with at least 15 employees including individuals, partnerships, corporations, universities, etc., engaged in an industry that affects interstate commerce.

Substantive Procedure: In brief, "ADA forbids discrimination against qualified individuals with disability because of that disability" in pretty much all aspects of employment including - hiring, firing, promotion, etc. (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC))

According to the Act, disability is expressed when there is:
1)  A physical or mental impairment which substantially limits an individual's major life activities
2)  A record of the above
3) A person is regarded as having impairment (534 U.S. 184 US Sup. Ct. /02)

To help protect society the Supreme Court of the U.S. has further narrowed the concept of disability. Thus, in Sutton v. United Airlines (1999), and in other cases as well, the Court ruled that "for a physical impairment to constitute a disability, the life activity that it substantially limits, must be one that is 'central to daily life' as opposed to the activity needed for a particular job":  (Mallor et all., 2008, p. 1269). Further, in the case of Chevron, USA v. Echazabal, the Court decided that an employer may justifiably screen out an individual to protect public safety and the person's own health. Also, ADA addresses equally protection of:

  • Individuals who can perform their jobs besides their disability
  • Individuals who need reasonable accommodations to be able to complete their jobs

A legal discrimination case on the basis of disability may be brought to an employer who does not provide reasonable accommodations from creating accessible adjustments to make existing facilities usable, to acquiring new equipment and making modifications for work related schedules. The chart bellow makes clearer the reasoning while resolving an ADA case (Mallor et all., 2008, p. 1270).

Employer Protection: To address society's problems at large, ADA also protects those employers whose decisions were made on the basis of job-related criteria and business necessity, and when the job cannot be accomplished without reasonable accommodations that do not induce undue hardship on the employer.
Courts need to determine whether the cost of providing reasonable accommodations for a disabled worker won't significantly interfere with the mere existence of the business, and adversely affect its financial savvy.  


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BeijingSifang June 2016