One of the largest corporations in the world, Walmart, has paid $80,000 dollars and changed their nationwide worker policy to settle an EEOC lawsuit. The reason behind the lawsuit was a violation of the ADA, or the “Americans with Disabilities Act”. Walmart had failed to inform one of their workers who recently developed a disability, thus unable to function in their position, of open positions which could accommodate her disability in other Walmart locations. By failing to reassign a qualified employee with a disability to a vacant position they have violated federal law. In response to the lawsuit Walmart changed its job reassignment policy so that the search for an accommodating position for an eligible worker with a disability would be extended to five stores beyond the employee’s current work location. Walmart’s ignorance of ADA and disability discrimination laws hurt its reputation and its wallet. In light of such a lawsuit it is important to consider what a disability is and what are the federal laws surrounding it are.
What is ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act or “ADA” is a comprehensive set of disability laws that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. ADA, signed into law on July 26, 1990, is split into five titles which detail its main protections.
- Employment: The first title prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide these individuals with reasonable accommodations.
- Public entities and transportation: The second title disallows federal and local governments from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. A regulation known as the “integration mandate” required public entities to administer programs and services to meet the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities. This title also mandates that public transportation accommodate said individuals as well.
- Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities: The third title is regarding businesses that are open to the public and prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires newly constructed buildings or modified buildings to comply with ADA standards. This means that newly constructed buildings or altered buildings must take into consideration the accommodations necessary for individuals with disabilities.
- Telecommunications: The fourth title requires telecommunication companies to provide functionally equivalent services to qualified individuals with disabilities.
- Miscellaneous provisions: The fifth title provides miscellaneous provisions and more importantly prevents retaliation against individuals who enforce their rights under ADA.
What Qualifies as a Dissability?
Under ADA an individual with a disability is considered someone who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- Has a record of such an impairment.
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
A major life activity is considered to be one’s ability to properly maintain themselves physically and mentally as well as other things associated with an individual’s ability to take care of themselves. The last qualification is not applicable to individuals who have a transitory impairment, an impairment with a duration of 6 months or less.
What happens if ADA is Violated?
Very much like case above, any company or government body found discriminating against a qualified individual with disabilities will more than likely find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit. There are several government agencies which enforce the titles under ADA, agencies such as the U.S department of Labor, the FCC, and the EEOC. If found in violation of ADA, the consequences can range from an initial fine of up to $75,000 to costly lawsuits that could force a change in a company’s employee policy.
Discrimination against individuals with disabilities can happen in almost any workplace and often catch said individuals off guard. If you find yourself in such a position where your individual rights are being violated, then the we strongly advise that you seek legal counsel.
PereGonza The Attorneys can offer a free consultation and give you insight on what the best course of action for what your specific case may be. Fill out our personal intake form for more information.