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Employee Rights Under the ADA

What is a substantial impairment under the ADA?

An employer may not discriminate against an employee because of a disability. To establish that an employee has been discriminated, first, an employee has to show that they have a qualifying disability. To determine if a physical or mental condition meets the ADA’s definition of a disability, a three-step test applies: first, courts must determine whether the condition claimed is a physical or mental impairment; second, courts identify the life activity upon which an employee relies and determines whether it constitutes a major life activity under the ADA; and third, courts determine whether the impairment substantially limits this major life activity. 

To be protected under the ADA, you must have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial impairment, as opposed to a minor impairment. A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning or working. 

In asserting that an impairment substantially limits a major life activity for purposes of a claim under the ADA, the employee has the burden of presenting evidence to identify how her impairment limited an entire class or broad range of jobs. The impairment cannot be limited to an employee’s specific job to have a claim under the ADA.

What is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA?

An employee may assert an ADA claim based on an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for the employee’s disability. 

ADA rights include access to reasonable accommodations such as changes or adjustments to the workplace that help an individual with a disability do his or her job and enjoy the benefits afforded to employees without disabilities. By stipulating a “reasonable” accommodation, ADA regulations do not require measures that would create an undue hardship in difficulty or expense.

If you believe you have been discriminated at work due to a disability, it is very important to contact an experienced attorney as cases are very fact specific and need to be carefully evaluated in order to protect your work rights.

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