Disability Rights In the Workplace: The ADA

October 13, 2022
Disability Rights In the Workplace: The ADA

We’re continuing our #NationalDisabilityEmploymentAwarenessMonth Disability Rights In the Workplace series! For this article, we cover specific rights protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Basic ADA Employment Rights

Employers required to follow federal disability rights laws, as discussed in our first article, are prohibited from using a disability as the reason to, as examples:

  • Not hire a qualified applicant.
  • Pay less than other workers doing the same job, or deny a pay raise if an employee is otherwise qualified for the raise.
  • Deny a promotion if an employee is entitled to or is the best candidate for the promotion.
  • Deny a benefit, such as insurance, retirement, training and advancement opportunities to an employee that is available to other employees.
  • Terminate an employee.
  • Refuse to make a reasonable accommodation (to be discussed in the next article).

Employers must also apply disciplinary rules in a consistent and even manner. Employers are prohibited from creating or applying a disciplinary rule which discriminates against persons with disabilities even if unintended. For example, an employer cannot create a zero tolerance attendance policy without providing reasonable exceptions for employees with disabilities.


Work Conditions

Employees with disabilities have a right under the ADA to a workplace which is free from harassment. Similar to sexual harassment prohibitions, if an employee with a disability faces a hostile work environment based on their disability, the employer needs to take effective action to address the harassment.

An employer is restricted from requesting medical information from an employee or require an employee to undergo a medical exam unless the request is “job related and consistent with business necessity.” Routine medical exams, such as for airline pilots or those using heavy dangerous equipment, or if required by law, will meet that standard. In other cases, if an employer suspects that medical condition interferes with an employee’s ability to perform a job or would be a direct threat to themselves of others, the employer needs to have a reasonable belief based on objective evidence a medical condition is involved before asking the employee to undergo an exam.


Retaliation and Interference

The ADA prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file or participate in a disability discrimination claim. Employees and job applicants with disabilities are also protected against interference, meaning an employer cannot intermediate, coerce, or threaten an employee from exercising their ADA rights. For example, an employer would violate the ADA by refusing a cost of living pay raise unless an employee with a disability withdrawals a request for a reasonable accommodation.



This article is for information purposes only, and is not intended to be legal advice for any claim. If you think you face discrimination, seek out competent legal advice.