Disability Discrimination and Accommodation Claims

The Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities who are qualified for a job. Under the ADA, a person may have a disability if: (1) he has a mental or physical condition that “substantially limits” a major life activity such as seeing, hearing, walking or learning, (2) he has a history of a disabling condition even if he is not currently limited by the condition, or (3) an employer believes he may have a physical or mental impairment expected to last more than six months (even if minor). To be protected under the ADA, an applicant or employee must also show that she is qualified to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. The ADA also protects individuals who are not disabled but who have a relationship with a person with a disability. In 2016, a little more than thirty percent of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asserted claims of disability discrimination. Moeller Barbaree’s Atlanta attorneys are experienced with all types of disability claims, including providing assistance during any interactive process about a request for accommodation, at the EEOC charge phase, and in litigation.

Moeller Barbaree’s Atlanta attorneys have extensive experience with providing advice regarding and litigating each of the following types of claims under the ADA:

  • Discrimination on the basis of disability in hiring, firing, job assignment, promotion, training, pay, benefits and any other term or condition of employment
  • Disability-based harassment so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or that results in an adverse employment action
  • Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to an applicant or employee with a disability, unless the requested accommodation would result in significant expense or other difficulties for the employer

Understanding the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirements is often challenging for individuals with disabilities and employers, and Moeller Barbaree’s attorneys in Atlanta can help. The statute generally explains that “any accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.” But the ADA’s accommodation provisions do not require an employer to eliminate an essential function or fundamental duty of the job. The reasonable accommodation process begins with an applicant or employee informing the employer that an accommodation is needed due to a disability. A disabled individual may request an accommodation that makes modifications to the job application process in order to allow an applicant to be considered for an available position, seeks modifications or adjustments to the actual work environment or to the circumstances in which the job is usually performed, or asks for modifications to allow a disabled employee to enjoy equal benefits of employment as similarly situated non-disabled employees. The ADA requires the accommodation requested to be “reasonable,” which courts have interpreted as “feasible” or “plausible” and effective. Some examples of possible accommodations which an employer may need to provide are purchasing or modifying work equipment, changing work schedules or reducing hours, job restructuring, and reassignment to other available positions. As another example, a request for an unpaid leave of absence may also be a reasonable accommodation. Once an employee requests a reasonable accommodation, the employer and employee (or applicant) have an obligation to engage in an informal process to consider the request, and the employer may need and request information to determine whether the employee’s condition is a “disability” within the meaning of the ADA. The informal discussion of a request for accommodation is referred to as an interactive process that allows the employer and the employee to consider possible reasonable accommodations not limited to the accommodation requested. An accommodation that causes an employer undue hardship is not required. Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis and generally means significant difficulty and expense for the employer, considering the employer’s resources or circumstances. In addition to the types of claims identified above, the ADA has strict limits regarding an employer’s ability to request medical information regarding applicants and employees.

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If you have a question or need guidance about disability discrimination or accommodation, please contact the Atlanta lawyers Moeller Barbaree at 404-748-9122, for a free, no obligation consultation or use our convenient email form.

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