Companies often face claims of disability discrimination from their employees or from former employees. Disability is a protected class under federal law when it comes to employment. Companies are not allowed to base employment or prospective employment on the disability of a current or prospective employee. This means that employees cannot be fired for having a disability and job candidates cannot be denied employment because of a disability. If you’re facing possible litigation due to accusations of disability discrimination, it’s important to seek legal advice from Shapiro Mediation Services in Massachusetts to protect your company from claims of disability discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990. Aside from making it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on mental or physical disabilities, the law also requires companies to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations. The ADA is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which helps employees and job applicants in all of the protected classes keep or obtain employment.
Discrimination is illegal regarding any area of employment, including the following:
- Determining pay
- Job assignments
- Fringe benefits
- Any additional employment terms
It is also illegal for an employer to harass a job applicant or an employee because they had a disability in the past or because they currently have a disability. The person who harasses the employee or applicant can be a direct supervisor, a co-worker, a supervisor from another department, a customer, a client, a vendor, or an independent contractor associated with the company.
Defining Reasonable Accommodations
It is required of all employers under the law to provide employees or applicants with disabilities reasonable accommodations unless doing so would prove to be too costly or difficult for the employer. A reasonable accommodation is defined as a change in the workplace or how things are done in the workplace to help an employee perform their job duties or to help a job applicant apply for a job with your company. Examples of reasonable accommodations include providing an interpreter for a deaf employee or job applicant or building a wheelchair ramp for physically disabled persons.
Caring for Disabled Family Members
The ADA does not require employers to provide accommodations for employees who need to care for a disabled family member. However, this is often protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. FMLA is governed by the Department of Labor. If your company isn’t sure what type of accommodations it needs to provide employees or job applicants, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced business law attorney immediately.
Mediation and Disability Discrimination
Companies do not like going to trial when trying to resolve conflict with employees, job applicants, vendors, or independent contractors. That’s why many businesses in Massachusetts utilize alternative dispute resolution methods like arbitration and mediation. Mediation has become one of the most popular forms of ADR today for various reasons. The benefits of mediation include the following:
- Mediation is quicker than litigation (you might have to wait a year or more for a trial)
- Mediation is more affordable than litigation
- Both parties can work at their own pace in mediation
- Negotiation meetings can be scheduled based on the availability of the parties
- The parties determine the settlement, not the mediator, arbitrator, or judge
- Either party can walk away from mediation without repercussion
- The transcripts and evidence presented in mediation cannot be used in a trial
When your company is accused of disability discrimination the reputation of your company could take a major hit. One of the biggest benefits of mediation is that the entire process is to remain confidential. Neither party is permitted to discuss negotiations with outside parties and the settlement does not become part of the public record like it does when determined via litigation.
Disability discrimination claims are serious. They can ruin your company in an instant, even if they aren’t true. It’s in your best interest to seek the legal advice of the Shapiro Mediation Services team as soon as possible when faced with these allegations.
Contact Shapiro Mediation Services Today
Has your company been accused of disability discrimination by an employee, a former employee, or a job applicant? It’s in your best interest to speak to an experienced Massachusetts mediation attorney from Shapiro Mediation Services as soon as possible. We can help mediate the dispute so that it does not reach litigation. Call our office in Massachusetts at (339) 298-7733 or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation at your earliest convenience.