The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their disabilities. It also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow applicants and employees with disabilities to apply and successfully do their jobs.
Is It Illegal To Not Hire Someone Because of a Disability?
Yes, it is illegal to refuse to hire someone just because of a disability. This is because those who have a disability are protected under federal law by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal legislation protects people with disabilities from discrimination in employment.
Due to this federal law you are not required to inform an employer that you have a disability when you submit an application for a job or when you are hired, even if at a later date you need your employer to provide reasonable accommodation for your disability. You have the right to request and receive “reasonable accommodations” so that you have an equal chance to succeed in your job’s requirements. Examples of reasonable accommodations include the following:
- adapting existing facilities so that they are more accessible;
- part-time or adapted work schedules;
- buying or modifying existing equipment used to perform a job;
- changing the structure of tests, training materials, or policies;
- providing professional readers or interpreters.
However, any private employer who has fewer than fifteen employees is not usually covered by federal non discrimination laws, including those that cover disability. Most states, however, have similar anti-discrimination laws which cover employees who work in smaller workplaces.
If you know you are able to perform the tasks required of the job, it is illegal for an employer to do the following:
- refuse to hire you;
- refuse to promote you,
- fire or demote you,
- harass you,
- pay you less than other employees due to your disability.
How The ADA Protects You
The ADA makes it illegal to harass an employee or an applicant because they have a disability, have had a past disability, or is believed to have a mental or physical impairment that is not transitory – which means it is lasting or expected to last 6 months or less – and minor – even if such an impairment does not currently exist. Harassment can take many forms, such as offensive remarks or jokes about an individual’s disability.
While the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, minor isolated incidents, or offhand comments, harassment is illegal when it is frequent and severe creating a work environment that is either offensive or hostile. This is especially true when it causes an adverse employment decision. You will need to maintain evidence and supporting documentation for your claim to show what happened and how it happened.
The law requires an employer to provide employees or applicants reasonable accommodations if they have a disability unless doing so is too time consuming, a significant difficulty, or too expensive for the employer. Reasonable accommodations may include making a workplace accessible to employees in wheelchairs or providing an interpreter or a reader for those who have hearing or visual impairments. It could be getting work documents in Braille for an employee who is blind.
How To Prove You Were Not Hired Because Of Your Disability
You must be able to provide supporting evidence and documentation that proves that you were subjected to negative job action, which in this specific case is showing that you were not hired, specifically because of your disability. There are some situations in which you can provide direct evidence of discrimination. As an example, if you receive a memo that says the company doesn’t hire applicants because they are in a wheelchair because of limited space, then you have the evidence that you need to prove your claim.
Usually, that kind of direct evidence is not available, so proving you were discriminated against because of your disability will usually be challenging. You will need to provide supporting documentation and evidence that shows you are qualified and capable of performing the job in question. You will need to prove that you were denied employment because of your disability.
Proving that you were not hired because of your disability can be difficult. To prove that you were the victim of disability discrimination, you must show that you were not hired simply because of your disability. As an example, if a company will not hire any individuals who use a cane or walking device because they do not believe they will reflect the company image. Or if the company will not hire anyone with a hearing impairment because they don’t want to “fool with getting a hearing device” for the phone system.
Usually, a company will have a pattern of such behavior, so be sure to talk with employees of the company or past employees as well as other applicants. When you can prove that discrimination was the cause for the negative action, you will be able to succeed with your discrimination case.
Speak With An Employment Law Attorney
If you have been discriminated against because you have a disability, you should speak with an employment law attorney. With the help of a lawyer who is familiar with the state and federal laws that apply to employment and discrimination, you are much more likely to have a successful claim.
When you meet with the attorney, be sure to discuss their payment options. Some employment law attorneys work on a retainer that is paid in advance while others take cases on a contingency basis and they are paid only when you win your claim and recoup compensation for your damages. You do have a statute of limitations, which is a limited time, to pursue a claim after you have suffered discrimination from an employer. Usually, you only have 180 days from the date of the incident.
If you were the victim of disability discrimination, and you were turned down for a job because of your disability, you should enlist the help of an employment lawyer in your area. Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form to share the details of your claim with an attorney who handles employment law matters in your area.