Disability (ADA) & Accommodations
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (commonly referred to as “ADA”), employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of their disabilities and are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is typically just a modification to one’s work environment. An accommodation can take many forms, but an example would be where an employee needs a special chair to accommodate a debilitating back injury or requires slightly larger doors to gain access to their work.
Disabilities can take on a variety of shapes and sizes. Many people don’t know that under the ADA, disabilities aren’t limited to being confined to a wheelchair or one of the other common things that come to mind when we think of the disabled. For example, the following list contains ailments that can be considered disabilities under certain circumstances and what the related accommodations might be
- Diabetes – work schedule adjustment to permit treatment;
- Wheelchair – wider doors to a bathroom to permit passage of wheelchair;
- Severe back pain – elimination of certain non-essential work functions or providing a chair with proper lumbar support; and
- Torn rotator cuff with lifetime restrictions – transfer to a job that does not require heavy use of arm
These are just examples and the possibilities are limitless but always based on the employee’s particular set of circumstances and what the employer can reasonably do to accommodate the disabled employee.
When an employee brings a lawsuit based on disability and wins, he or she is entitled to an award of damages which may include:
- back pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer’s wrongful conduct between the time of the wrongful act (such as wrongful discharge) and the time of trial);
- front pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer’s wrongful conduct from the time of the trial into the future);
- reinstatement (or giving you your job back);
- reasonable accommodation (such as a modification of your work environment if you are disabled); and
- other damages to restore the employee to the position he or she would have been in but for the discrimination.
Remedies may also include compensatory and punitive damages depending on various circumstances such as the egregiousness of the employer’s conduct. Remedies also may include attorneys’ fees and court costs.