Disability Discrimination & Harassment

The Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (“ADAAA”) protects qualified individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination. Under the ADAAA, an individual may be considered “disabled” if he or she 1) has, 2) has a record of, or 3) is regarded as having, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Impairment of a “Major Life Activity” Under the ADAAA

Major life activities most commonly include activities such as eating, sleeping, reproduction, walking, working, hearing, speaking, breathing, caring for oneself, learning, interacting with others, and performing manual tasks. Other conditions, such as environmental, cultural, and economic disadvantages; pregnancy; physical characteristics; and common personality traits are not alone considered “disabilities” for the purposes of the ADAAA.

An impairment of a major life activity is substantially limiting if the individual’s ability to perform that activity is prohibited or significantly restricted, when compared to the ability of the average person in the general population. A determination regarding whether the impairment is substantially limited depends on the nature and severity of the impairment, the duration or expected duration of the impairment, and the impact of the impairment. Typically, a short-term illness or injury, such as a broken leg, will not qualify as an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

Qualifying and Claiming Under the ADAAA

Under the ADAAA, a qualified individual with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position. The employer is required to engage in an interactive process to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee who notifies the employer of his or her disability and claims that he or she needs a reasonable accommodation. The employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation poses an undue hardship upon the employer.

The ADAAA applies to employers who have at least fifteen employees working each day for the twenty weeks preceding the filing of the civil claim. The ADAAA prohibits discrimination against disabled employees in the private sector, and in state and local government and educational institutions.

In order to bring a civil claim under the ADAAA, an individual must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). From the date of the adverse action, employees typically have 300 days to file a charge with the EEOC.

Plaintiffs successful in bringing suit under the ADAAA may be entitled to back pay, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees. In cases where the employer acted intentionally, with malice, or with reckless disregard, a successful plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages. Under the ADAAA, both compensatory and punitive damages are statutorily capped based on the number of individuals employed by the employer. For employers with 15-100 employees, a plaintiff may be awarded no more than $50,000 in compensatory damages and no more than $50,000 in punitive damages for willful violations. For employees with 101-200 employees, the cap for each is $100,000. For employers with 201-500 employees, the cap is $200,000. For all other employers, the cap is $300,000 for each category of damages.

Our Disability Discrimination Lawyers

We have successfully represented numerous clients in negotiation, administrative agency charges, and litigation over the years, and our attorneys understand the complex ADAAA standards. If you have questions about discrimination on the basis of a disability or perceived disability, or feel that your employer has violated the ADAAA, contact Siegel & Dolan to speak to a Chicago disability discrimination lawyer. 

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