The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is used to assert the rights of disabled people in all areas of U.S. life, especially in the workplace. However, it is not at all uncommon for employers to either unintentionally misinterpret the ADA, or willfully ignore it if they believe that accommodating a disabled applicant will be too much of a burden. While some requested accommodations will be too much for some employers, often times, the ADA is used against a disabled employee, rather than in their favor. Here, we’ll further explore the use and misuse of the ADA.
Accommodations & Burdens
The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 (long after most of the antidiscrimination laws cited today were passed), aiming to protect the rights of disabled people in many different walks of life. One of its most common usages is in employment disputes, where an applicant or employee files a complaint alleging that their employer is in breach. If an employer is alleged to be in breach of the ADA, it means that they are being accused of treating a qualified applicant with a disability differently than they would treat one who was able-bodied (or free of certain mental or intellectual conditions).
The ADA requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled employee or applicant, unless it would cause an undue burden on the employer. The terms “reasonable” and “undue burden” are both open to interpretation, depending on the nature of the employer’s business and the size of the company. In other words, an accommodation that would be eminently reasonable, and not a burden, for a Fortune 500 company might be far too much to ask of a 5-person company barely staying above water. Each case is different.
What Is “Reasonable?”
While an employer has an obligation to try and work with a disabled employee or applicant, it is also important to understand the inherent nature of a reasonable accommodation. An accommodation is meant to allow the disabled person to perform their job more easily, and is inherently affirmative, meaning that permission not to do something will not usually qualify.
For example, in recent months, requirements mandating the wearing of cloth masks have become more common—it is not considered a reasonable accommodation (with rare exceptions) to be allowed not to wear a mask. In fact, business employees in certain cities like Mt. Pleasant, SC and Greenville, SC can face fines for not wearing them.
In addition, if the initial accommodations you request are considered to pose too much of a burden, it is generally possible to request others. Most employers want to work with their employees, and it may be possible to reach an acceptable outcome without involving any authorities. If this is not so, however, you may be able to file a charge with either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Some employers do not have an adequate understanding of what the ADA permits and does not permit, and agency mediation may help.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
We hope you better understand the use and misuse of the ADA. Too many disabled people fall through the cracks of employment because they cannot land or keep a job. If you feel as though you have been discriminated against because of your disability, or you believe that your employer is misapplying the ADA, calling a South Carolina employment discrimination lawyer may be a big help. Attorney A. Christopher Potts can offer compassionate and understanding representation at what can be a frightening time. Call the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to set up a consultation.