The first step to prepare for a strong workplace disabilities case is to hire an experienced employment attorney. It is important for an employee with disabilities to be aware of their rights and where they originate. There may be accommodations available they were not aware they could request. 

It is, of course, not necessary for an individual to remember every aspect of the law, that is what the attorney is there for. It simply may help jog a memory or bring up a topic for discussion.

Workplace disability issues are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act is a federal law that protects disabled individuals from discrimination in various areas of life, including the workplace. Workplace protections in the ADA ensure that all employees, including those with disabilities, have access to the same benefits and opportunities as other employees. 

Employers with 15 employees or more and subject to the ADA. This includes local and/or state governments. In addition, ADA requirements apply to labor unions and employment organizations.

In some states, state laws have been enacted which protect individuals with disabilities and provide additional protections to those included in the ADA. With the help of an attorney, an individual can determine what local laws apply to them. For example California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act reduces the minimum number of employees to five. Additionally, both California and Massachusetts have a broader definition of disability and, therefore, more employees are protected.

It is also important for an individual to be familiar with the terminology that will be used in their case. This will assist them in communicating with their attorney regarding their case. An attorney will, of course, be able to provide a more detailed explanation of terminology their client is not familiar with.

Pursuant to the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Additionally, the ADA protects individuals who have a history of a mental and/or physical impairment as well as individuals who appear to others to have a mental or physical impairment.

The ADA does not specifically list disabilities that are covered. Therefore, an examination of the concepts of mental and/or physical impairment and major life activities is required for further clarification. A mental and/or physical impairment is broadly defined. This is an intentional step to ensure the law does not limit those individuals who may be covered. Instead, the law focuses on how substantial the impairment is and what type of impairment the individual has. 

The concept of major life activities is also broadly defined. It is meant to encompass day-to-day tasks that may be affected by an individual’s disability. 

Major life activities can include, but are not limited to:

  • Caring for oneself; 
  • Performing manual tasks; 
  • Seeing; 
  • Hearing; 
  • Eating; 
  • Sleeping; 
  • Walking; 
  • Standing;
  • Lifting; 
  • Bending; 
  • Speaking; 
  • Breathing;
  • Learning;
  • Reading; 
  • Concentrating; 
  • Thinking;
  • Communicating; and/or 
  • Working.

Major life activities may include the operation of the major body systems, which include:

  • The immune system;
  • The bladder;
  • The bowel;
  • The brain;
  • The circulatory system;
  • The digestive system;
  • The endocrine system;
  • The reproductive system; and/or
  • Respiratory functions.

Employers that are subject to the ADA are only required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals who are qualified. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship to the employer.

What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Bring to My Disabilities Attorney? 

It is important to gather any relevant documents and compile a list of questions prior to a consultation with an attorney. Relevant documents may include items such as:

  • An employment contract, if applicable;
  • Any requests for accommodations already made;
  • Any correspondence from the employer regarding the accommodation; and/or
  • Any other documents that may be relevant to the dispute.

It is also important for an individual to compile a list of questions they may have for their attorney. If there is any aspect of the ADA and/or the accommodations process a client does not understand, their attorney will be more than glad to assist.

What Makes a Strong or Weak Criminal Disabilities Case?  

 A strong criminal disabilities case begins with an attorney. An attorney will be aware of the applicable laws in their client’s state.

Pursuant to the ADA, accommodations are reasonable if they can be completed without undue hardship. In general, a reasonable accommodation is a change in a work environment and/or how a job is done that makes it possible for an employee with disabilities to enjoy the same employment opportunities as other employees.

Reasonable accommodations may also include:

  • Changes to the application process;
  • Changes to the physical work environment;
  • Changes to the way the job is normally performed; and/or
  • Changes that allow a disabled employee to enjoy the same privileges and/or benefits as an employee in the same or similar position.

Examples of a reasonable accommodation may include:

  • Modifying existing facilities to make them accessible;
  • Modifying the current work schedule;
  • Adding equipment and/or making changes to existing equipment;
  • Making changes to the training process and/or test administration;
  • Altering workplace policies;
  • Providing an interpreter and/or reader, if needed; and/or
  • Reassigning an employee to an alternate available position.

If an accommodation requires an employer to remove an essential function from a job, that would not be considered reasonable. An individual who cannot perform an essential function of their position, with or without a reasonable accommodation, is considered unqualified for the position. 

Additionally, an employer is not required to lower production standards. An accommodation that allows the employee with disabilities to meet the standard would be a reasonable accommodation. 

Pursuant to the ADA, an employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would cause undue hardship. Undue hardship would be an accommodation that causes significant difficulty and/or expense to the employer. What would be considered a significant difficulty and/or a significant expense depends on the circumstances of the employer and the nature of the business.

An employer will examine accommodation requests on a case-by-case basis in order to determine if they would cause undue hardship. Accommodations that may cause undue hardship include those that fundamentally alter the operation of the business, are extensive, are disruptive, or are too expensive in comparison to the financial resources of the employer.

A strong workplace disabilities case will be made by showing that a reasonable accommodation was denied. Since the standard is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, having an attorney will be an invaluable asset.

What Types of Disabilities Cases Benefit the Most from an Attorney’s Help? 

Any and all types of disabilities cases benefit from an attorney’s help. As noted above, each case is unique and must be evaluated separately. In addition, laws will vary by state. An attorney will be familiar with all aspects of the law. 

An attorney will also be aware of the best evidence to present and the most effective way to do so. An attorney may also be able to assist in communicating with an employer regarding an accommodation to reach a solution that satisfies all parties. It may be the case that the employer is simply not aware they are required to make an accommodation.

When Do I Need a Disabilities Attorney? 

It is important to have an experienced employment attorney on your side for any workplace disabilities issue. The advice of an attorney can be invaluable, even if they only provide advice on requesting an accommodation. They will be able to explain the Americans with Disabilities Act, determine if it applies to your case, and explain your rights pursuant to the Act. In some cases, an employer will be more likely to accommodate you if they know you already have an attorney on your side. 

Should you already be involved in a workplace disabilities dispute, it is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible. They can advise you on how to proceed with your dispute as well as determine what the next steps are for your case. Your lawyer will also represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.