ADA protections and employment accommodations

There's a saying related to a belief that you don't really know someone or their specific situation until you walk a mile in his or her shoes. This saying rings particularly true when discussing individuals who struggle with physical or mental disabilities.

According to the U.S. Census Department, as of 2010, nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population had a disability. For these individuals, life can be a struggle as they encounter and attempt to overcome daily challenges both in their personal and professional lives. Thankfully, individuals who are disabled are protected in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

ADA protections against employment discrimination extend to disabled prospective employees during the application and hiring process as well as employees with regard to training, promotion, pay, benefits and termination. Additionally, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to aid disabled employees to "secure and retain employment."

For example, for an employee who is in a wheelchair, an accommodation may relate to ensuring that he or she is able to safely and easily maneuver around a workplace. While physical disabilities are among the most easily identifiable and accomodable, many U.S. employees struggle with numerous other types of disabilities that are less visible and that may require more individualized accommodations on the part of an employer.

Say for example that an employee is diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Under ADA laws, reasonable accommodations provided by an employer may include altering an employee's work hours and schedule, environmental changes, job flex and working from home options and job coaching.

At times, an employer may fail to provide adequate or appropriate accommodations to an employee who has a physical or mental disability or condition. Individuals who believe they have suffered workplace discrimination due to a disability have legal rights and would be wise to discuss their options and possible legal recourse with an attorney.

Source: FindLaw.com, "The Employer's Duty to Accommodate," July 8, 2015

Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, "Employment," July 8, 2015

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