Employment access and equitable on-the-job opportunity is a treasured American principle.
And yet it is not one that has always been on ready display in workplaces spanning Indiana and the rest of the country.
Put another way: Although America’s varied work venues might these days largely seem to be marked by a sense of general fairness and inclusiveness, that is not always the case. Moreover, and to the true extent that equal opportunity in the employment realm does exist across the United States, its realization has always been marked by stark challenges and uneven strides.
In a nutshell, that means this: America’s vast and diverse workforce has consistently fought for centuries to secure fair and fundamental employment protections. And from that long-range perspective, it is only within recent years that the labor force has been aided by federal and state laws that materially safeguard on-the job rights.
One piece of national legislation that stands as paramount is the seminal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Title VII protections. Many readers might be familiar with that law and its workplace safeguards applicable to “protected” categories ranging from race and national origin to sex and religion.
As important as those protections obviously are, they were never deemed as limited, and further classifications have in fact been added to over the years, including safeguards relevant to age, gender identification and disability. That latter category is spotlighted below.
Of foundational importance: the Americans with Disabilities Act
The customarily designated ADA was passed by the U.S. Congress n 1990. As noted by one in-depth overview of legal protections extended to disabled American workers, the ADA bars most private and public employers (some companies are exempt from requirements owing to their small size) “from discriminating against otherwise qualified people with disabilities.”
There is a distinct recognition implied in those words, namely, that legions of disabled individuals are fully capable of high performance at the workplace and should not be precluded from the opportunity to fully participate. Here are two key takeaways from the ADA:
- A disabled person as considered under the law must have a record of impairment “that substantially limits one or more major life activities”
- An employer must make “reasonable accommodations” enabling a disabled individual to adequately perform at the workplace
There are also other key aspects linked with the Act, with one notably being the requirement that any facility open to the public be clear of obstacles and barriers impeding access by disabled persons.
There is sometimes a bit of subjectivity and wiggle room surrounding the ADA’s “reasonableness” prong, as well as with the law’s specific protections in given cases. A disabled individual with any questions or concerns can contact a proven employment law legal team for guidance and results-oriented representation.