It was a hot summer day 30 years ago when more than 2,000 disability rights advocates gathered at the White House to watch President George H.W. Bush put his signature on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make it law. During the signing ceremony, the president noted “for too many Americans, the blessings of liberty have been limited or even denied.” He said the ADA “brings us closer to that day when no Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
He was right. In 2020, we are closer to that day than we were 30 years ago. The ADA’s comprehensive protections of the civil rights of people with disabilities moved the country forward.
Transforming the nation
The ADA has been used to compel federal, state and local governments to make buildings and public transportation accessible to people with disabilities. So, too, were the owners of stores, business offices, factories and other public spaces. The transformation included automatic doors, lifts, ramps, designated parking, curb cuts, signs in Braille and more.
The ADA has been used to do much more than remove physical obstacles, however. The landmark law has knocked down barriers in America’s workplaces, too, by prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants with disabilities.
The ADA’s workplace protections
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the ADA forbids discrimination in “any aspect of employment,” including:
- Job assignments
As regular readers of our Kentucky Law Blog undoubtedly know, the ADA also requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with disabilities. Those accommodations are changes to the work environment or to the way things are usually done.
Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Modifications to desks and workstations
- Modifications to equipment
- Modifying training
- Restructuring schedules or breaks
- Unpaid leave to allow for medical treatments
There are many other possible accommodations, of course. It should be noted that there are a couple of caveats: the “reasonable accommodations” portion of the ADA covers only employers with 15 or more employees, and businesses are not required to make accommodations that would cause undue hardship.
Make yourself heard
As noted earlier, the nation has progressed since 1990, but there’s more to be done. Employees with disabilities no longer have to silently endure on-the-job discrimination or retaliation for filing an internal complaint about disability discrimination.
Contact a Louisville employment law attorney to discuss your legal options.