On February 15, 2018, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 620, which would enact significant changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) if it becomes law. This subsequently named “ADA Education and Reform Act” would require that inaccessible businesses receive notice from a disadvantaged party in the event of discrimination, be granted 60 days to formulate a plan to address the issue, and 60 more days to put that plan into action. There is widespread opposition, but one aspect which has not been discussed in depth is how such a provision will affect disabled employees. While certain protections apply to employees, changes to the ADA may affect those as well.
H.R. 620 would require that anyone who wants to sue a business in federal court would be required to provide written notice. That business would then be allowed 60 days to formulate a plan to address the issues, with 60 more days to have the opportunity to actually correct the defect. This has created serious divisions in the business community as well as in the disability community, given that the ADA and its guidelines have been in force since the 1990s.
The business community generally supports this bill, with activists arguing against “drive-by lawsuits” that ostensibly do nothing but run up attorney’s fees and waste time, rather than improve anything in terms of the lives of disabled people. Disability rights activists, on the other side, argue the bill creates an unreasonable burden and, as they point out, no other disadvantaged class is asked to interpret the law instead of the alleged offender.
What is most noteworthy, however, is the role that these proposed changes may possibly play in both disabled applicants’ and workers’ lives.
Know Your Rights
If you are a disabled applicant or employee of a specific business, the current ADA holds that there can be no discrimination of any kind in interviewing or any other aspect of the hiring process. However, the proposed changes to accessibility contained in the ADA Education and Reform Act – namely, requiring notice and the waiting period before a business may be found to be noncompliant with the ADA – do not cover applicants, because applicants do not have a formal relationship with the business in question. This means that if, for example, a disabled applicant seeks to interview with a business that is not ADA accessible, they might conceivably have to go through the drawn-out process of advising the business of its lack of accessibility.
Once you are hired and thereby gain employee status, you have rights which are (as of this writing) unchanging; any employee may seek a reasonable accommodation in order to perform the duties laid out in their job description, and that accommodation must be granted unless it is seen to be an undue hardship on the employer. However, it remains to be seen what will become of this bill. For this reason, applicants may wish to do their research on accessibility before seeking employment.
Call An Experienced Attorney
Employees with disabilities can be valuable members of an employer’s workforce. Legislation like the ADA Education and Reform Act can be confusing – making you a potential victim of unjust treatment at work. If you feel you have been discriminated against in an employment capacity, enlisting an attorney can help get to the bottom of the issue. The firm of Hitchcock & Potts has experience in these cases and can help you through the process. Contact attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston law firm today.