EEOC v. Georgia Power Company proved that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will pursue action against companies that discriminate against disabled employees. This case alleged Georgia Power Company breached federal law by disallowing employees to return to work following treatment for medical conditions. Georgia Power also refused to hire disabled applicants or those whom they perceived as disabled.
This case (and others) highlight the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Act prevents people with disabilities from being discriminated (and in some instances retaliated against) in all aspects of life. Title I of the Act concerns disability discrimination in employment.
Here are the six most important things employers should know about the Americans with Disabilities Act:
1. In order to be considered an employer, employers must meet the definition of “covered entities” under Title I of the ADA.
2. Discrimination can occur in the advertising, interviewing and pre-hiring process. Employers are not permitted to question applicants on disability prior to making an offer of employment. This means that employers cannot ask whether a potential employee has a physical or mental impairment, or even whether they have ever been addicted to drugs.
3. Employers also have to be careful asking medical questions once they make a conditional job offer. Employers may require potential employees to undergo medical examinations.
4. Employers may be entitled to rescind a job offer based on these medical exam results without breaching the ADA. However, if a complaint is made to the EEOC, investigators will scrutinize the claim to discern whether it was rejected on the basis of a disability.
5. Employers may reject disabled applicants for “safety reasons”. However, they can only do this if they can prove that the potential employee poses a “direct threat”, could harm himself or others, and that reasonable accommodations cannot reduce such a risk.
6. Employers must make adjustments to a job or the working environment that will allow an individual to have equal access to employment. This can involve job restructuring, allowing an ill employee to work different hours, and making the environment accessible.