Disability Discrimination Based on Medical Conditions

Atlanta Lawyer Knowledgeable in Employment Matters

Employees and employers sometimes have competing interests, particularly when a company believes that an individual’s personal circumstances may limit his or her performance or ability to work. Federal law, however, protects workers and job applicants from discrimination based on disability. If you have a legal issue or question involving these rules, the employment law attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can assist you. We have served both employees and employers throughout the Atlanta area.

Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADA’s employment provisions. Prior to filing a lawsuit against the employer under federal law, the employee must first file a charge with this agency. In 2011, the EEOC received 25,742 charges under the ADA. In any such claim, it is very important for the employee or job applicant to act quickly because it must be filed within 180 days of the allegedly wrongful conduct.

Pursuant to the ADA, employers with 15 or more employees may not discriminate against “qualified individuals” because of a disability. A person falls into this protected group if he or she is able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Under the ADA, an individual may have a “disability” in any of three ways. First, he or she may have an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Ameliorative measures, with the exception of ordinary vision correction, are not considered in determining whether this is true. Thus, if a person’s vision can be corrected with regular eyeglasses or contact lenses, he or she would not be considered to have an impairment. However, an individual with epilepsy may still be considered to be disabled even if his or her condition is controlled by medication, since the impairment would be judged based on his or her un-medicated situation. Additionally, it is determined based on the active state of a condition that is episodic or currently in remission.

Alternately, an individual is considered to have a disability if he or she has a record of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. This part of the definition might apply to someone who has recovered from a serious illness or who has a history of mental illness.

A person is also considered to have a disability under the ADA if he or she is regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Under this section, the person does not have to have a physical or mental condition, as long as that is the perception of others.

Reasonable Accommodations

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow an employee to perform the job. It is generally up to the worker to request an accommodation. These will vary depending upon the specific circumstances of the job, the disability, and the employer’s business operations. Reasonable accommodations may include restructuring the job, modifying the work schedule, reassigning the employee, obtaining new equipment, modifying existing equipment, or modifying training materials. An employer is not required to provide an accommodation if it would constitute an undue hardship for its business, which generally means creating significant difficulty or expense.

An individual who is the victim of disability discrimination in the workplace may be entitled to recover back pay, compensatory damages, reinstatement, or a court order for the provision of a reasonable accommodation. Under certain circumstances, punitive damages may be available.

State Laws and Remedies

Georgia has specific laws prohibiting this type of discrimination in employment. O.C.G.A. 34-6A-6 provides that an individual with a disability “who is aggrieved by an unfair employment practice” may bring a civil action within 180 days after the unlawful conduct occurred. Successful state law claims may result in an injunction, a restraining order, an order requiring hiring, reinstatement, or the admission of the employee into training programs. He or she may also be able to recover back pay, court costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Discuss a Disability Discrimination Issue with an Atlanta Attorney

The Atlanta lawyers at Parks, Chesin & Walbert have handled a variety of disability discrimination cases, advising both companies and individuals on their rights, obligations, and potential strategies. Each of these situations is unique, and we are ready to provide the thorough examination of facts that they require. If you have an employment discrimination issue, call us at 404-873-8048 or contact us online to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.

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