Americans with Disabilities Act Lawyer in Alabama
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled employees and applicants from discrimination in the workplace. Firms with 15 or more employees in Alabama are covered by the federal ADA. A 2009 amendment to the ADA significantly broadened the definition of “disability,” giving workplace protection to people subjected to adverse employment actions who have perceived or actual physical or mental impairment. If you or a loved one is disabled and is having problems with an employer, you may have the right to file an ADA disability discrimination claim.
Attorney Kira Fonteneau has extensive experience representing victims of ADA disability discrimination and other employment law matters. Fonteneau has in-depth knowledge of this area of the law, and what it takes to prevail against employers and their high-priced legal teams. Kira is an aggressive advocate on behalf of working people, and she works closely with clients to provide the skilled and personalized legal representation they need and deserve.
What is a Disability Under the ADA?
A disability is a physical or mental impairment which limits significantly the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity. Major life activities include:
- Performing Manual Tasks
- Caring for Oneself
This impairment may affect one or more of the following bodily functions:
- The Neurological System
- The Immune System
- The Respiratory System
- The Circulatory System
- The Endocrine System
- The Digestive System
- The Reproductive System
- Proper Cell Function
Not all employees or job applicants with disabilities are protected by the ADA, only individuals who are qualified for the position for which they are applying. A qualified individual is someone who is able to perform the essential functions of the job “with or without reasonable accommodation.” This means that an individual must already possess the necessary experience, skills, and other prerequisites to perform the essential tasks associated with the position. They do not need to be able to perform tasks that are peripheral and not essential job functions.
Reasonable Accommodations Under the ADA
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees to help them do their jobs, unless the accommodation would create an “undue hardship” for the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- A modified work schedule;
- Adjustments or modifications to work equipment;
- Adjustments or modifications to exams or training exercises;
- Making facilities used by disabled employees more readily accessible (e.g., stairlifts, wheelchair ramps, etc.).
Debilitating conditions affect individuals in differing ways. Which accommodation is necessary depends on the specific needs of each individuals as it relates to their condition and the job they are tasked with performing. Disabled employees who need an accommodation must request one from their employer. The request should be made in writing and include information regarding the debilitating condition they have, the tasks they have trouble performing, and what accommodations are needed. It may also be helpful to include a doctor's note describing the condition, limitations, and what accommodations might help.
Once your employer receives a request for a reasonable accommodation, they must work with you in good faith to meet your request, if possible. If the employer is unable to meet your request because of an undue hardship, they must try to come up with an effective compromise that will still provide the accommodation you need.
Common ADA Violations
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act was originally passed by Congress in 1990 and significantly broadened in 2009, ADA disability discrimination still occurs frequently in the workplace. Some common examples of ADA discrimination include:
- Refusal to Consider Applicants with Disabilities: Some employers incorrectly assume that an applicant with a certain condition would be unable to perform a particular job, so they do not even consider their application.
- Refusal to Offer Reasonable Accommodations to Disabled Job Applicants: Employers may consider a disabled applicant, but then refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process. For example, if a written test is required, refusal to allow a disabled applicant to take the test using voice-activated software.
- Requiring a Medical Exam Before Making an Employment Offer: An employer is not allowed to require an applicant to take a medical examination until they have already made a conditional job offer.
- Failure to Answer a Reasonable Accommodation Request: Once an employee makes a request for a reasonable accommodation, the employer must engage in a “flexible interactive process” to come up with an effective accommodation. Some employers ignore and do not respond to the employee's request, which is a violation of the ADA.
- Fostering a Hostile Work Environment for Disabled Employees: ADA disability discrimination can often occur when a disabled employee is subjected to a hostile work atmosphere. For example, when an employer allows disabled workers to be harassed, teased, made fun of, threatened, or intimidated by management or fellow co-workers.
- Making Employment Decisions Based on an Employee's Disability: Firing, laying off, demoting, cutting back hours, refusing an earned promotion, and other similar employment decisions that are made based solely on an individual's disability are illegal under the ADA.
ADA Disability Discrimination Claims
If you have been discriminated against by an employer because of a physical or mental impairment, you may have the right to take legal action against your employer or prospective employer. The first step is to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In Alabama, this charge must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination incident. Our office helps its clients write their charges and guides clients through the EEOC's investigative process. Once the EEOC Charge is filed, the EEOC may decide to investigate your claim, invite you to participate in mediation with your employer, or issue a “right to sue” letter. After receiving the “right to sue” letter, you have 90 days to file your lawsuit.
If you believe you have an ADA disability discrimination case, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Kira Fonteneau understands the complexities of the ADA discrimination claims process, and she has a successful track record with these types of cases. She can review your case and go over your options to decide the best legal path toward a favorable outcome. For a personalized consultation with Kira, contact our office today at (404) 383-5720.