Last month marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—landmark legislation that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals with disabilities in job hiring, promotions, and other circumstances. The law also provides individuals with disabilities equal access to businesses, government programs, transportation, etc.
However, Americans with disabilities still face many hurdles regarding employment, affordable housing, and now Social Security benefits. To this day, many public transportation locations do not offer elevators and taxis are not wheelchair accessible. According to the U.S. Census, nearly one in five people have a disability (or about 57 million people total), and yet applying for Social Security disability is a very difficult process. This is daunting, especially since, according to some, “all of us will be disabled at some point, either by injury, age, or illness.”
The Olmstead decision
The Olmstead decision was a paramount case for individuals with disabilities. On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court decided that any state’s efforts to enforce the institutionalization (i.e. segregation) of individuals with disabilities constituted discrimination in violation of the ADA. Public entities must provide community-based services to disabled individuals when such services are appropriate, welcomed, and can be reasonably accommodated.
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC)
In Pennsylvania, employment discrimination is illegal if it is based on someone’s race, color, sex, age, ancestry, religion, education, handicap or disability, or relationship to someone with a disability. Pennsylvania law applies to companies with four or more employees and does not apply to federal or law enforcement agencies and certain other entities.
The PHRC lists some examples of discriminatory actions as:
- Firing someone based on something other than job performance;
- Lowering someone’s pay and/or paying them less than a coworker who does comparable work based on sex, race, etc.
- Applying a policy that hurts one group more than others;
- Offering different discipline, work terms, conditions, benefits, etc. to one group versus another; or
- Refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for a worker with a disability.
A complaint must be filed with the PHRC or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before you can file a lawsuit against your employer, and it must be filed within 180 days of the action. Once you have filed, the agency will assign an investigator to your claim and likely try to mediate. If it cannot, then it decides whether a lawsuit should be filed.
Solnick & Associates, LLC
At Solnick & Associates, our attorneys are committed to addressing any employment discrimination and/or Social Security disability issues you may be dealing with. We will help to ensure that your rights are protected in spite of your disability. Contact us today for a free consultation.