Understanding Disability Law – The Basics

Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act and disability law under it were designed to protect those living with disabilities of any type from discrimination. Disability laws were passed that applied to virtually every aspect of life but many were put in place specifically to protect the rights of disabled employees in the workplace. As a business owner there are several disability law issues that you should be aware of in order to ensure that you adhere closely to them. The exact disability laws can vary somewhat and different qualifications cause you to fall under their jurisdictions. While it may seem complex, understanding the basics of disability law is actually fairly easy.

First, it's important to understand that only qualified employers fall under the jurisdiction of disability law. A qualified employer, as defined by disability law, is categorized as any business employing over fifteen people. This applies to private businesses, and educational institutions, government institutions, or other organizations will be bound by disability law regardless of employee numbers. Private businesses with fewer than fifteen employees will likely not be required to adhere as strictly to the laws of the ADA. Those who do, however, will face several disability laws that ensure they cannot discriminate against qualified disabled employees in any aspect of employment, and in many cases may have to make special allowances for the disabled party.

The basic disability law your company will have to adhere to states that no current or potential employee who is qualified for their position can be discriminated against due to a disability. In other words, if their handicap does not impede their ability to complete their job duties you cannot refuse them employment, terminate their employment, or limit their position based on their handicap under penalty of disability law. And under disability law you must also be prepared to make reasonable accommodations so that they can complete their tasks. According to disability law reasonable accommodations could include modifying a work schedule or equipment.

Serious accommodations that will place you or your business under undue strain are not required to be made by disability law, and if an employee is not qualified to handle the tasks of a position you will not be required to provide them work simply because they have a disability. Under disability law undue hardships qualify as any action that requires significant expense or difficulty. What constitutes a hardship under disability law will vary depending upon the size and nature of the business and the expense associated with the modification. Some factors, such as making the workplace and restrooms accessible for the disabled, will likely not fall into an undue hardship.

When reviewing disability law it's important to remember that just because an employee has a disability they are not automatically protected from being fired or laid off. Any reduction of hours, termination, or other similar incidents that occur as a result of other issues not related to a disability are not illegal. It is only illegal under disability law to fire or discriminate against employees due to their handicap. Understanding all of the various aspects of disability law is important since you could face serious penalties including heavy fines if you violate an employee's rights under the ADA and the disability laws it sets forth.

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