Explained by a Maryland disability discrimination lawyer.
Disability discrimination is unequal treatment that occurs when an employer treats a qualified individual with a disability differently—because of their disability. This includes treating an employee less favorably because the employer assumes the individual has a physical or mental disability.
The federal employment law that prohibits disability discrimination is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate in all aspects of employment, including hiring, promotion, and termination. Employers must give reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, unless it's too difficult or expensive for them to do so. Employers refer to this as an "undue hardship."
If you're facing disability discrimination at work, or you need a reasonable accommodation put in place, contact us today.
What is disability discrimination?
In our experience at the Employment Law Center of Maryland, ADA discrimination generally takes one of three forms:
Taking an adverse action (e.g., firing, not promoting, or demoting) because of an individual's disability;
Failing to grant a reasonable accommodation; or
Enacting policies or practices that have a disparate impact on individuals with disabilities.
The ADA protects individuals with "disabilities." It defines "disability" in three main categories:
An individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
An individual with a record of such an impairment; or,
An individual who is regarded as having such an impairment.
An individual is considered to have a disability under the ADA if any of these three categories apply. Importantly, if an impairment is temporary, it usually does not qualify as a disability under the ADA.
To qualify for the ADA's protections, an individual with a disability must still be "qualified" for the job in question. This means that the individual with a disability must be able to perform the "essential functions" of the job, with or without an accommodation. The burden is on the individual to show that they can perform the essential functions of the job.
It's also possible to bring a "hostile work environment" claim related to the ADA, in situations where an individual with a disability is being harassed at work because of their disability. An ADA hostile work environment claim has slightly different requirements than those mentioned above, so you should contact a Maryland disability discrimination lawyer if you're being harassed at work because of your disability.
In addition to ADA discrimination claims where an employer takes an adverse action against an individual with a disability, a Maryland employer can also violate the ADA by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant.
Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation includes the following:
making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities;
part-time or modified work schedules;
reassignment to a vacant position;
acquisition or modification of equipment or devices;
appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations;
training materials or policies;
provision of qualified readers or interpreters; and,
other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
But as the term itself suggests, an accommodation must be reasonable. This is often the crux of ADA discrimination disputes, as there's no clear-cut line for what accommodations are reasonable, and what accommodations are unreasonable. That's why, in Maryland, your employer has to engage in the "interactive process," which is a negotiation about what accomodation you need.
As a general rule, an accommodation is unreasonable if it would cause the employer "undue hardship," which often means it would be prohibitively expensive or difficult for the employer to enact.
At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, we frequently assist Maryland workers with putting reasonable accomodations in place. Book a consultation today—our employment lawyers here to help.
State Disability Discrimination Laws
Disability discrimination in Maryland is prohibited by Md. Code, State Gov't § 20-606 (known as Title 20), which operates similarly to the ADA in most respects. Title 20 prohibits discrimination based on "[a] disability unrelated in nature and extent so as to reasonably preclude the performance of the employment..."
Title 20 defines a disability as a physical disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect, or illness, including epilepsy, or a mental impairment or deficiency. Generally, the same conditions that qualify as a disability under the ADA will qualify under Maryland's Title 20.
While the ADA and Title 20 are very similar in how they operate, the Court of Appeals of Maryland recently noted that Maryland regulations require “an individualized assessment by the employer of the employee's abilities to perform the essential functions of a job,” a process according “stronger protection for the employee than the federal ‘interactive process' regulation.”
Because of Title 20's stronger protections, it may be advisable in some situations to pursue a disability discrimination under Maryland's Title 20, rather than the ADA. At the Employment Law Center of Maryland, we review a potential client's disability discrimination claims under federal, state, and local law to determine the best path for success. If you need a skilled Maryland disability discrimination lawyer, contact us today.
Filing a Disability Discrimination Case
When you sue for disability discrimination in Maryland, you need to "administratively exhaust" your claim. This means that you need to file an administrative complaint of disability discrimination before you can file a lawsuit in state or federal court. Like most employment discrimination cases under federal or state law, you must comply with strict deadlines and filing requirements. A skilled Maryland employment lawyers can help you file the necessary complaints, and keep track of the relevant deadlines.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you must file an administrative complaint of ADA discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the disability discrimination.
Once the EEOC has investigated your administrative complaint, they will issue you a "notice of right to sue." Once you receive that notice, you have 90 days to file an ADA discrimination lawsuit in federal U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Because of the strict deadlines required to pursue an ADA or disability discrimination claim, it is vital that you speak with a Maryland disability discrimination lawyer as quickly as possible.
Doane v. Strategic Housing Solutions LLC
In an unpaid wages case, obtained a trial victory and treble (3x) damages against employer.
Garner v. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corp.
In a wrongful termination case, resolved after obtaining sanctions against employer for destroying evidence.
Boston v. Dinocrates Group, LLC, et al.
In an unpaid wages case, obtained a judgment against Dinocrates Group, LLC for nearly $300,000.
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