Atlanta Disability Discrimination Attorneys
There are tens of millions of individuals in America who face physical or mental disabilities that might limit their ability to carry out certain tasks. However, these disabilities do not prevent them from being valuable and productive members of society and the workforce. Sadly, despite the progress made in recent years, many employers continue to discriminate against employees with disabilities, driven by bias, stereotypes, and ignorance.
The disability discrimination attorneys at Beal Sutherland Berlin & Brown have a proven track record in handling cases where individuals have experienced such discrimination. For example, Brian Sutherland represented an employee who was denied leave for mental health treatment and won a trial award of over $622,000.
If you believe that you have experienced disability discrimination at work, it is crucial to know your rights.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, a disability can be defined in a number of ways, such as:
- A physical or mental condition that limits one or more major life activities
- A history or record of such a condition
- An employer's perception that the individual has such a condition
- An association with someone who has a condition
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their disability status, including:
- Discrimination in hiring, firing, recruitment, training, job assignments, promotions, benefits, pay, layoffs, leave, and other employment practices
- Harassment of employees with disabilities
- Asking inappropriate medical questions during the hiring process
- Requiring unnecessary medical exams
- Failing to provide reasonable accommodations that enable employees with physical or mental disabilities to perform their job functions
- Maintaining a workplace that poses significant physical barriers for employees with physical disabilities.
Employees with disabilities may require certain adjustments or assistance to perform their job duties, which are referred to as "reasonable accommodations." Employers are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, enabling them to perform essential job functions.
For instance, an employer may be obligated to provide an employee with cancer or another condition a leave of absence to receive treatment. Additionally, employers may need to accommodate an employee's physical limitations by allowing them to sit or stand frequently, honoring lifting restrictions, or changing their schedule. The law specifies that reasonable accommodations may consist of:
- Job restructuring
- Modified or part-time work schedules
- Reassignment to a vacant position
- Special equipment or devices
- Modified exams, training, or workplace policies
- Providing readers or interpreters
Employers may sometimes refuse to provide reasonable accommodations, citing that it would cause an "undue hardship." While the law allows employers to avoid certain accommodations in some circumstances, it also requires employers to engage in an "interactive process" or discussion to understand the employee's needs and offer alternatives if the requested accommodation is not feasible.
As a job applicant, you are protected by law from being asked about your disabilities or the extent of them during a job interview. However, a prospective employer can ask if you are capable of performing the job's required duties with or without reasonable accommodations. The employer can also inquire about how you will carry out the job's tasks. While you cannot be required to undergo a medical exam before being offered a job, a medical exam can be a condition of the job offer if certain conditions are met. For example, if all entering employees in the job category must take the medical exam, if the exam is relevant to the job, and if the exam is consistent with the employer's business needs. Information generated by the medical exam cannot be used to reject your employment unless it shows that you cannot fulfill an essential job requirement that is necessary for the employer to conduct business. If a reasonable accommodation would enable you to perform the essential job functions, the employer cannot refuse to hire you based on your disability. After being hired, an employer cannot make medical inquiries or require medical exams unless it is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Exceptions to this rule include fitness-for-duty exams for law enforcement officers or return-to-duty certifications for employees whose job-related health is crucial for safety.
What you can recover in your disability discrimination case depends on whether your case is brought under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act, or both. The ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as counties and cities and some state governments. The Rehabilitation Act applies to employers who receive federal financial assistance.
Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, you can recover:
- Back pay, or lost wages and benefits, from the two years preceding the date you filed your charge of discrimination to the conclusion of your EEOC case or the verdict or judgment in court;
- Injunctive relief, including reinstatement or front pay for a reasonable period of time in lieu of reinstatement; and
- Attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.
Under the ADA only, you can recover:
- Compensatory damages for pain and suffering, including emotional distress damages; and
- Punitive damages to punish and deter the employer from ever treating another employee like you were treated.
The amount of compensatory and punitive damages you can recover depends on the number of employees your employer has, and are limited to:
- $50,000 for employers with between 15 and 100 employees;
- $100,000 for employers with between 101 and 200 employees;
- $200,000 for employers with between 201 and 500 employees; and
- $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees.