With offices in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Youngstown and Toledo, the Ohio employment lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm are experienced at fighting disability discrimination. To combat discrimination against disabled Americans, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The ADA prohibits workplace harassment and employment discrimination based on disability, as well as employer retaliation against employees who report or complain about discrimination against the disabled. This means that your boss, manager, or supervisor cannot make fun or you, demote you, or wrongfully fire you because you are disabled or perceived to have a disability. Also, Ohio laws, found at R.C. § 4112.02(A), provide similar protections to disabled employees.
Many employees do not really and fully understand if they are covered by the ADA, and if so, what their rights are. The ADA requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to the known physical limitations of employees with disabilities or perceived disabilities. Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation may include the elimination or modification of a non-essential job duty, or the transfer of a non-essential job duty to another employee or coworker.
The first issue is always whether you work for a covered employer. Your employer is only bound by the ADA if it has 15 or more employees, but is covered under Ohio law if there are only four or more employees.
One of the biggest and most important changes to the ADA was the inclusion of employees that the employer regards as disabled. This is by far the easiest way to establish a claim.
As a result, you can be covered under the ADA if you fall into any of these categories: (a) you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits your major life activities; (b) you have an impairment that may or may not substantially limit your major life activities, but your employer treats you as if you do; (c) you have an impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward your impairment; or (d) you do not have a disability that substantially limits your major life activities impairment, but your employer treats you as if you do.
To qualify as a impairment that limits your major life activities, the disability must prohibit or significantly restrict your ability to perform activities such as caring for yourself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, sitting, standing, lifting, thinking, concentrating, and interacting with others. With regard to the ability to work, your impairment substantially limits your ability to work if it prevents or significantly restricts you from performing a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes as opposed to your specific job, which you still need to be able to perform with some accommodations.
While temporary impairments that take significantly longer than normal to heal; long-term impairments; or potentially long-term impairments of indefinite duration may be disabilities, they must be severe.
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act does not cover every medical condition, it does protect against discrimination based on in instances in which an employee does not have an actual limiting disability, but their co-workers or supervisor believes that they do. This means that employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on their own prejudices or notions of how certain medical conditions affect an individual’s ability to work. Those of us who have seen the movie Philadelphia probably remember that Tom Hanks’s character suffered from HIV and his employer fired him when this information was leaked out. This would be a perfect example of an instance where the individual who suffered the discrimination might not actually be disabled within the ADA definition (most individuals with HIV can work without the condition significantly affecting their daily routines), but who would be protected by the ADA nonetheless because the employer perceived them to be disabled. Additionally, the ADA also protects individuals who have a medical history or a record of a disability and their employer discriminates against them based on this history.
If one of these qualifications of the ADA applies to you, the law protects you in many ways. First and foremost, your employer is required to reasonably accommodate your disability. The operative word, “reasonably”, is intentionally vague and there are a myriad of cases which define what it means in different contexts. Although there are no clear answers, if the accommodation that you seek is both cheap and easy to implement, your employer should put it in place if you make a request for it. To give a few examples, adding signs in Braille and removing clutter from workplace hallways should be considered reasonable accommodations that a blind employee has a right to under the ADA. In contrast, it might be unreasonable to request that an employer, especially a small company, install a hydraulic lift to raise a disabled employee up a spiral staircase.
Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits your employer from taking any negative action against you on the basis that you are disabled, or because the employer perceives you to be disabled due to their own prejudices or because of your past medical history. Similar to other anti-discrimination statutes, the ADA allows you to receive lost wages and benefits when you are terminated, demoted, or your benefits are limited on unlawful grounds. You may also be entitled to equitable relief in the form of reinstatement.
If you find yourself saying or thinking one of the following about your job or employer, you could have an age discrimination claim for damages:
- I was fired today because I’m disabled.
- My supervisor teases and harasses me about my disability.
- My boss makes fun of me because I’m disabled.
- I get harassed because my manager and supervisor think that I’m disabled even though I don’t have a disability or condition.
- My manager makes employment decisions based on my disability.
- My job will not hire other disabled workers.
- My boss pays me less than non-disabled employees with less skill and/or less experience more.
- I want to sue my company for employment discrimination at work.
- My supervisor gave me bad reviews that I don’t deserve and then fired me because of my disability.
- My boss said he will not waste time training disabled employees because we can’t do the job anyway.
- My job will not accommodate my disability.
- My boss will not give me an easy accommodation to help me do my job.
- My boss replaced disabled workers with non-disabled employees.
Do you have more questions about disability discrimination at your job. Here are our employment discrimination lawyers’ best answers to some of the more frequently asked disability discrimination questions.