Disability Discrimination Essay
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Would you deem Karina disabled under the ADAAA? If so, what reasonable accommodations would you offer to her?
Karina has a medical condition requiring her to take steroids and other medications. This condition led to Karina gaining weight and not able to wear two uniform items, the stockings and heels. These conditions affect her back, circulatory system, and endurance level. Additionally, according to her doctor, Karina must stop wearing the stockings and heels because of her condition. Based on this information, Karina does qualify as “disabled” even if she does not display symptoms that interfere with her ability to perform her duties.
By taking medication, Karina is mitigating (reducing) the effects of her illness. However, her employer cannot consider this information in determining if she has a protected disability under the ADAAA. The ADA was passed nearly 20 years ago to provide legal protections for, and to end discrimination against, workers with disabilities. The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.
It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Under the ADA, an individual is considered to have a “disability” if that individual either (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of that person’s major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded by the covered entity as having such an impairment. The determination of whether any particular condition is considered a disability is made on a case by case basis.
When the ADA was first passed into law in 1990, federal courts were very strict in determining which employees met the ADA’s definition of a “disability,” resulting in the dismissal of many cases. A series of such court decisions made it increasingly difficult to qualify for the law’s protections. To remedy this problem, Congress recently passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which went into effect on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made five changes to the ADA that are significant. 1.It provides that the definition of the ADA “disability” must both be more “flexible” and “broadly construed.” 2.It expands the list of “major life activities.”
3.It provides that courts can no longer consider whether “mitigating measures,” such as medication or assistive technology, reduce the impact of impairment on an individual. 4.It states that diseases that are “episodic” or in remission may still be “disabilities.” 5.It provides that employees who claims they are “regarded as” disabled can now make an ADA claim, even if the “perceived” disability does not impact a major life activity. It is important that employers be up to speed on these changes. This is especially important because the ADAAA created a shift of emphasis in applying the law. In enacting the ADAAA, Congress instructed that it should be interpreted to favor “broad coverage of individuals under the ADA,” and that courts must focus not on whether an employee is “disabled,” but on whether the “employer is complying with its obligations under the law.”