The Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates 20th Anniversary


“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down”

-President George Bush, Sr., July 26, 1990.


     Twenty years ago, President George Bush, Sr., spoke the words above on the south lawn of the White House while he signed into law an Act that would tear down barriers which had excluded so many Americans because of their disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, was designed by the U.S. Congress to ensure that individuals who suffered from disabilities were not forced to also endure discrimination. The purpose of the ADA is not to give special or extra benefits to those with disabilities, but to ensure that they get the same opportunities as those without disabilities.


How does the ADA affect you?


     In the current economy, employment is often a major concern for American workers.  If you have disability, you may fear being unable to find or keep a job because of your disability.  The ADA provides you protection in the job market.  It is a violation of federal law for an employer to terminate you or discriminate against you based on your disability.


Is my employer covered by the ADA?


     The ADA covers businesses that have at least 15 employees. Examples of the types of employers who are covered by the ADA include restaurants, hotels, retail stores, grocery stores, janitorial companies, etc.  This means that the ADA covers the majority of employers.


What disabilities are covered by the ADA?


     In 2008, the ADA was amended in order to broaden its scope of protection. Under the new amendments, the definition of “disability” has been expanded.  The Act originally required that the disability “substantially limit a major life activity.”  A major life activity includes, but is not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.  The amendment to the Act broadened the definition of a disability to include illnesses or physical conditions that affect “a major bodily function.”  This definition covers everything from diabetes to alcoholism.


     Under the ADA, it is not necessary that you currently suffer from a disability.  You may be protected if you have previously had a disability or you employer believes you have a disability, even if that belief is mistaken.  While a perceived disability or past disability don’t qualify you for a reasonable accommodation, if your employer discriminates or retaliates against you for one of these reasons you may have a claim under the ADA.


How does the ADA protect me?


     The Act prohibits employers from discriminating against you based upon your disability. This offers disabled workers protection in three ways.  First, an employer cannot terminate your employment or refuse to hire you based solely upon your disability. Second, an employer must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.  It is a violation of the ADA for an employer to deny you reasonable accommodations. The following list illustrates several ways an employer can be required to accommodate your disability:


· making the work place accessible to you

· modifying work schedules and policies to account for your disability

· allowing you time off from work to cope with a disability

· allowing time off from work to recover from hospitalization


Third, your employer cannot retaliate against you for your disability, or asking for a reasonable accommodation.  Retaliation can occur either through termination or creating a hostile work environment.             


What can I do if I feel that I have been discriminated against because of my disability?


     If you have a disability and feel that you have been discriminated against, you need to contact an attorney immediately. At Wooldridge & Jezek, LLP, we are ready to help protect your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  We will diligently and vigorously pursue your case to get you the result you deserve.  


By: William Smith

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