Americans who have documented disabilities used to suffer from immense discrimination. Often, they were unable to find gainful employment and needed to rely on others – typically generous family members -- for their financial support and other needs. These days, the situation is dramatically different. Although there are many men and women with disabilities who still need to rely on others, there are countless more who make vital contributions to their communities through their employment.
This is partly because more Americans with disabilities have gained the emotional and psychological strength to push past what society used to view as "disabilities," and show that they are capable of contributing to the world on the same level as other "nondisabled" employees – and often exceeding them. It's also because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects workers with disabilities from unequal treatment related to employment.
The ADA applies to individuals who have – or are believed to have – a mental or physical impairment that limits a major life activity – like walking, talking, learning, seeing or moving -- in a substantial way. Individuals who are commonly believed to be disabled are people who have blindness, deafness, wheelchair confinement, learning disabilities, mental illness and other conditions.
Under the ADA, employers cannot harass or treat differently an individual with a disability. Furthermore, they must provide the individual with reasonable accommodations to help them complete their jobs and remain competitive in the workforce. There are a lot more details that pertain to U.S. anti-workplace discrimination law, but this is an excellent introduction. If you'd like to learn more about your legal rights under the ADA – and find out how to pursue a lawsuit related to on-the-job disability discrimination – our legal team is available to assist you with all your employment law claims.