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Disability discrimination, part 1: federal protections

In many cultures in the world, people with disabilities are routinely pushed to the periphery of society.

Fortunately, that is not acceptable in the U.S. Disabled people have important legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.

In this two-part post, we will explore some of the key aspects of those protections, including the concept of reasonable accommodation.

The main source of these protections is of course the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

But there is also another important federal law that also contains protections for people with disabilities. That law is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits disability discrimination against federal employees and job applicants.

The Rehabilitation Act also applies to federal contractors and in programs that receive federal financial assistance.

The coverage of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act extends broadly to many different types of employers. There are many details, however, regarding coverage requirements for specific types of employers.

If an employer is covered by federal disability protections, the employer is required to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the needs of an employee with a disability. The same is true of a job applicant with a disability.

It’s true that “reasonable accommodation” doesn’t require everything under the sun. If an employer can show that undue hardship would be involved in a particular accommodation, then that accommodation would be considered unreasonable.

In practice, this usually means that the accommodation in question would be too expensive or overly difficult. We will discuss this further in part two of this post.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Disability Discrimination,” Accessed April 28, 2014

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