Disability Discrimination

The American 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 a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such impairment; or, (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

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 for and Claiming a Reasonable Accommodation 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 (15) employees working each day for the twenty (20) weeks preceding the filing of the civil claim. The ADAAA prohibits discrimination against disabled employees in the private sector, in state and local government, and at educational institutions.

In order to bring a civil claim under the ADAAA, an individual must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“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.

Rhode Island Civil Rights of People with Disabilities Act

The Rhode Island Civil Rights of People with Disabilities Act (“CRPD”), R.I.G.L. §42-87-1, et seq. prohibits Rhode Island employers from subjecting individuals to workplace discrimination and retalaition due to their disabilities or because they are percieved as being disabled. The CRPD also requires employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to individuals with disabilities. By failing to do so, an employer may be subjected to legal exposure. Under the CRPD, a plaintiff-emloyee subjected to disability discrimination may be entitled to compensatory and puntiive damages and other releif.

If you or someone you know believe you have been discriminated against due to disability or a perceived disability, please contact us to discuss your matter.

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