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Disability discrimination suits are increasing

The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to businesses with 15 or more employees and is intended to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. A couple of years ago, Congress said the courts were defining the term "disability" too narrowly and then-President George Bush signed into law amendments to the ADA that broadened the definition of a disability, potentially benefiting many workers in Indiana.

This action expended the basis for a lawsuit under the ADA. Since then, the number of employment discrimination lawsuits has nearly doubled and disability discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have risen to an all-time high.

Sources say that since the amendments, federal agencies have also added more strict requirements for disability accommodations. For example, swimming pools open to the public must have elevators to accommodate wheelchair users. It has also been suggested that a company that screens out applicants who do not have a high school diploma may be discriminating because those screened out could have a learning disability.

Opponents of the changes feel that the broadening of the definition of disability has led to too many frivolous claims that are costing employers large amounts of money. Many employees are claiming that they were passed over for jobs because of a disability while the employers claim that that unrelated factors led them to fire or choose to pass over an applicant.

Ultimately, the ADA does not tolerate discrimination, but employers are still allowed to hire the most capable person. They must, however, be careful about what they ask a job applicant regarding disabilities, and they must also make reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability.

Workers should be aware of what rights they have under the ADA to ensure current or future employers take the necessary steps to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure a productive work environment.

Source: The Washington Times, "Discrimination lawsuits double as definition of 'disability' expands," Luke Rosiak, May 31, 2012

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