While we like to think that we live in a new and enlightened age when it comes to employment practices, the reality is that many employers regularly engage in practices that are highly questionable or perhaps even discriminatory.
It's important to understand, however, that they do this at their own peril, as the federal government has laws in place that expressly prohibit many types of discrimination and empower employees to take legal action in the event they find themselves being victimized.
Consider for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the historic law that protects disabled people from employment discrimination on the part of state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations and, of course, private employers.
In today's post, the first in a series, we'll start taking a closer look at the ADA by examining who exactly it is designed to protect.
As written, the ADA is designed to protect people from disability-related discrimination in the workplace if 1) they have a disability and 2) they are qualified to perform the job in question.
While this first point may seem obvious or even redundant, it's important to understand that the law actually sets forth a very exacting standard. Specifically, the ADA mandates that a person must currently have, have a history of, or be believed to be afflicted with a substantial impairment. This means a condition that limits a major life activity -- seeing, walking, speaking, hearing, breathing, etc. -- to a considerable degree. In other words, a minor impairment will be insufficient.
We will continue examining this topic in our next post, including exploring the second requirement that must be satisfied in order to invoke the protection of the ADA.
If you believe that your employer may have discriminated against you based on your disability, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to explore your options.