Apr 15

Determining What Conditions are Protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Woman in WheelchairThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that first went into effect in 1990. The law strives to maintain an inclusive environment by breaking down barriers commonly faced by those with disabilities and granting civil rights protections similar to the protections granted to individuals on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA bans discrimination against individuals with disabilities in every part of life, including employment.

Title I of the ADA

Title I of the ADA lays out protections for individuals who have disabilities so that they may access equal opportunities in a place of work. The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment proceedings, from the job application to hiring, firing, promotions or demotions, compensation, and other conditions of employment. Employers are also subject to providing reasonable accommodations for qualified employees or applicants who have a disability. For many employers and employees alike, it can be difficult to determine what conditions are eligible for these protections. If you believe you may have been discriminated against due to a disability, it is important to speak with a disability discrimination attorney.

Who is protected by the ADA?

Under the ADA, employers cannot discriminate against “qualified individuals with disabilities.” Due to the complex nature and evolution of health science, it is impossible and impractical to keep a complete list of conditions that people may have that makes them eligible for protections. Instead, the law defines one with disabilities as one who “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

This definition clarifies that the condition must have a significant impact on the individual’s abilities. In addition, this definition protects those who, for example, have a history of cancer who are currently in remission or those with a history of a mental disorder (“has a record of such an impairment”). Finally, the definition protects those who are considered to have a “substantially limiting disability,” even if they are not actually impaired. This protects individuals who, for example, are severely disfigured (“or is regarded as having such an impairment”).

Who is considered a “qualified individual with a disability”?

A “qualified individual” is defined as one who “meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.”

As you can see, requiring the person with the disability to be able to perform essential job functions ensures that he or she will not be passed over as an applicant for a disability that may infringe upon non-essential functions.

Though there is not a complete list, generally, the following conditions are considered protected under the ADA as a result of recent changes to the law:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Missing limbs
  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • HIV infection
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Mobility Impairments
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Muscular Dystrophy

In addition to providing protections for employees the ADA also protects individuals associated with those who have disabilities.

There are a myriad of employment protections available in Virginia, both at the state and federal levels. At Bertini Law, we understand the difficulties associated with filing a complaint against your current or hopeful employer. Our compassionate attorneys have years of experience sticking up for employee rights. Call (757) 222-9165 or contact our law firm to discuss your disability discrimination case.

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