Approximately 54 million non-institutionalized Americans have physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities (Hernandez, 2000)... The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination based upon their disability (Bennett-Alexander, 2001). The protection extends to discrimination in a broad range of activities, including public services, public accommodations and employment. The ADA's ban against disability discrimination applies to both private and public employers in the United States. Not all individuals with disabilities are protected by the ADA.
To be protected, individuals with disabilities must show that they are otherwise qualified for the job they want. They have to prove that they can perform the essential functions of that job with or without reasonable modifications, and they must have a disability that significantly limits them and show that they have suffered discrimination because of the disability. The ADA prohibits employer discrimination against qualified individuals with a disability in regard to application procedures, hiring and firing, promotions, pay, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment (Hernandez, 2001). This applies to the entire range of employer-employee relationships, including testing, work assignments, discipline, leave, benefits, and lay-offs. In addition, the ADA prohibits retaliation against individuals who seek the protection of the act, or in any way help those who do. There are several examples of workplace discrimination, such as: 1.
Limiting, segregating, or classifying disabled job applicants or employees in a way that denies them employment opportunities because of their disability. 2. Using the services of organizations, such as employment agencies, referral services, labor unions, or healthcare providers, which discriminate against the disabled. 3. Using standards that discriminate on the basis of disability or enable discrimination.
4. Denying employment or job benefits to individuals because they have a relationship with someone who is disabled. 5. Not making a reasonable accommodation for the disabilities of employees or denying employment opportunities to them because of the duty to accommodate their disabilities. 6. Using qualification standards, employment tests, or selection criteria that screen out or the disabled unless they are job related.
7. Using employment tests that measure applicants' disabilities, instead of their ability to do the job. This is not a complete list of the types of discrimination found in the workplace, there are other forms of workplace discrimination prohibited by the ADA. However, one form of workplace discrimination; the failure to reasonably accommodate the disabilities of applicants and employees, applies to all stages of the employment process. An accommodation is any change in the workplace environment or in the way things are done in the workplace that gives individuals with disabilities equal employment opportunities (Bennett-Alexander, 2001). The ADA provides examples of employers' actions that are considered reasonable accommodations.
The list includes making physical facilities accessible to and usable by disabled persons; restructuring jobs; changing work schedules; initiating reassignments; modifying or acquiring equipment; changing tests, training materials, or policies; and providing readers or interpreters (Hernandez, 2001). Many claims of workplace discrimination have to do with a failure to reasonably accommodate known disabilities of applicants or employees. If a claim of disability discrimination is made, employers may use various defenses. They may argue that their decision was made for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.
They also may show that they could make no reasonable accommodation for the person's disability without undue hardship. If the claim is that the employer's test or standard resulted in discrimination, employers may show that the standard or test is job related and necessary to give. Employers also may demonstrate that hiring or keeping the disabled employee would pose a direct risk of harm to others in the workplace. Employees filing claims based on a disability may find greater relief in state courts, applying state laws.
In some states, damages are higher for disability discrimination under state laws, and claims are easier to prove than in federal courts applying the federal laws (Bennett-Alexander, 2001). People with disabilities believe the ADA has improved their level of participation in mainstream American society -- including better access to buildings, greater access to transportation and fuller inclusion in the community (Wells, 2001). Even though the ADA has helped, disability discrimination still exists in the workplace today. The disabled still face an uphill struggle when it comes to finding work and earning salaries that are on the same level as the rest of the work force. Employers need to comply with the regulations that the ADA enforces, in an attempt to keep people with disabilities able to work and to help them advance in their professional lives..