Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disabled person as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a qualified disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as is recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction through a supervised rehabilitation program.
If you are a disabled person as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), then your employee rights require a covered employer to reasonably accommodate your disability so that you may perform the essential duties of your job, unless it would cause undue hardship on the employer.
Your employee rights under the Act also prohibit an employer from discriminating against you in any aspect of employment solely on the basis of your disability, such as hiring, firing, advancement, compensation and job training.
Even if you are not a disabled person, you are still protected from association discrimination under the ADA, which is employment-related prejudice against employees because of their associations or relationships with disabled people.
The ADA provides for legal recourse, such as recovery of back wages and reimbursement of attorney fees, should an employer violate your ADA employee rights.
The ADA was was strengthened by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA or ADA Amendments Act) to better protect disabled workers from employment discrimination. Both Acts are enforced as one (the ADA) by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local government employers, and to employment agencies and unions. For Federal government employees, the ADA anti-discrimination standards apply under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is also enforced by the EEOC.
The state in which you work might have a law with equivalent or better employee rights protections than the Federal ADA. If so, you are protected by whichever law is the most generous, depending on the circumstances.
To file a discrimination charge against an employer for violation of your employee rights under the ADA or a state-equivalent law, you may do so directly with the EEOC or a state-equivalent agency, or by asking an attorney to help you. An attorney will likely better file your charge in legalese, to increase your chances that the EEOC or state-equivalent agency will act on your behalf.
Note: Employees who work for Federal government contractors or subcontractors would instead file disability discrimination complaints with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Whether you first see an attorney or file charge, don't delay for long. A relatively short statute of limitations applies from the date of the initial employer violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, unless the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 also applies.
For more information about your employee rights under the ADA or a state equivalent law, start by contacting the nearest EEOC office or a state equivalent, or by consulting an attorney. Meanwhile, you might want to read about disability discrimination under the ADA at the Web site of the EEOC.
See also Disability.gov, a Federal Government Web site designed to help disabled people, and ADA.gov, a Department of Justice Web site that provides ADA information for employees and employers.
The U.S. Department of Labor has created a database of disabled college students and recent grads who are seeking employment. Eligible college students and grads may sign up through their schools, and employers may tap the database to hire disabled workers. For more information, see the Web site Workforce Recruitment Program.