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The Americans With Disabilities Act: Facts & Myths

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, creating important protections for disabled people in the workplace and the everyday sphere. However, it is easy to assume that the law was a panacea for any problems that disabled people, especially workers, may have. In reality, misinformation abounds, and it is in the best interests of both abled and disabled people to understand what the law really says.

Myth: Businesses are forced to hire disabled people without qualifications, to meet some arbitrary quota.

Fact: The ADA only applies to disabled workers who are otherwise qualified for the job in question. The law itself states that “qualified individuals with disabilities” are to be given the same employment opportunities as those without disabilities. The key word is qualified – if an applicant does not meet the criteria for a job posting, their disability will not get them further in the hiring process.

Myth: The ADA is actively harmful to small businesses; it is too complex to navigate without an extensive Human Resources department.

Fact: The smallest businesses are not required to comply with the ADA. All businesses that have fewer than 15 employees are exempt. For those who do fall under its purview, defenses do exist that can be used if the reasonableness of accommodations is in question. The most commonly used is that of undue hardship, meaning that to accommodate the individual in the requested way would cause a significant disruption or impact on the workplace.

Myth: Disabled workers can’t be fired.

Fact: You can always fire someone if they are failing to do the job they were hired for – as long as you have attempted to work with the person and made reasonable accommodations. You simply are not able to fire them because they are disabled. For example, if you hired a deaf individual, and provided them with sufficient equipment with which to do their job, but they continually failed to meet performance benchmarks, you would be within your rights to terminate them. If you simply terminated them without attempting accommodation, that would be discriminatory.

Myth: ADA complaints are almost entirely without merit.

Fact: It is true that the most recent available data shows that employers win ADA complaint cases approximately 80 percent of the time (20 percent of claims resulted in merit resolutions). However, there are multiple reasons for this: namely, that many misunderstand the extent of the ADA’s power, or that legitimate complaints are often resolved via mediation or another internal process. While some legitimate claims do get to the EEOC level, others are crafted to achieve maximum attention – thus, they are the most well known, even if they are a minority of the complaints each year.

Contact An Employment Law Attorney

If you believe that you have been terminated wrongly or discriminated against in defiance of the ADA, it is best for you to consult a knowledgeable attorney. The Charleston employment law firm of Hitchcock & Potts has handled employment law and discrimination cases for years, and is happy to discuss your options with you. Contact us today at 843-577-5000 or via our website to schedule an appointment.

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