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The Americans with Disabilities Act and reasonable accommodations: part one

According to recent data from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, reports of employment discrimination, including disability discrimination are on the rise. Despite state and federal laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities, differently abled workers continue to face unfair conditions in the workplace.

Disability discrimination arises when an employee is treated unfavorably because of a disability. This adverse treatment can come from an employer, potential employer or other employees under the employer's supervision and control.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, forbids discrimination on the basis of disability in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, advancement, training and benefits, among others.

The ADA also prohibits harassing an applicant or employee because he or she has a disability, has had a disability in the past or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment. These protections are also extended to those who have a close relationship to someone with a disability, such as a spouse or child. A company may not pass up a job applicant, for example, because they fear she will need to take more time off to take care of her husband who has a disability.

Simple teasing or offhand remarks do not qualify as harassment according to federal law. In order to be considered harassment, adverse conduct must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or culminate in an adverse action such as demotion or termination. This conduct can be perpetrated by a supervisor, coworker or someone outside the organization like a client or customer.

Later this week we'll discuss employers' responsibilities under the ADA, including their duty to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

If you have been wrongly terminated from your employment or treated unfairly at work because of a disability, contact an experienced employment law attorney. They can help you put together a case and pursue any state or federal legal claims that may be appropriate.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Disability Discrimination"

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