ADA litigation is a major focus of this law firm and Nolan Klein has recently taught a class for lawyers, approved by more than ten state bar associations for legal education credit, on how to effectively defend clients against ADA lawsuits.
ADA claims against employers are increasingly common. We represent employers at every stage of the claims process, from EEOC complaint through litigation.
In order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he is (1) disabled; (2) a qualified individual; and (3) was subjected to unlawful discrimination because of his disability.
The ADA defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.
In order to establish that he or she is disabled under the ADA, a plaintiff must specifically demonstrate that a major life activity is substantially limited as a result of his disability.
An employee cannot state a claim where the alleged disability does not substantially inhibit a major life activity as that term is defined by the ADA.
In order to bring any suit for discrimination under the ADA, a claimant must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
This notification requirement serves to advise the charged party of the allegations against it and allows that party an opportunity to participate in conciliation; generally, a party not given this appropriate notice may not be sued in a later civil action.
A Charge of Discrimination must be filed within three hundred (300) days after the claimant purports to have suffered discrimination. If the EEOC elects not to proceed with the case, then a lawsuit must be filed within 90 days after that election.
A central question in employment-related litigation, and in particular ADA litigation, is whether the claimant is an employee at all (as defined legally). In determining whether a claimant is an employee (as opposed to an independent contractor), courts will initially look to any agreement between the parties.
Where an employment agreement is unclear as to whether claimant is an employee or an independent contractor for purposes of coverage by the ADA, some courts will apply a hybrid test to make the determination.
Courts using this hybrid test will consider the extent of the employer’s right to control the means and manner of the worker’s performance. Additional factors considered by the court may include:
If claimant was disabled as defined by the ADA, and was in fact an employee (as legally defined), the question then becomes whether a reasonable accommodation was requested, and if so, whether it was required.
A disabled employee must of course request a reasonable accommodation before there arises any obligation to provide one. After the request is made, the question becomes whether the requested accommodation was mandatory.
A mandatory accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or to the work environment that will allow an otherwise qualified disabled employee or applicant to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
Critical to the analysis of the requested accommodation is whether it will allow the disabled employee to perform the needed job for the employer. There is no obligation to provide a different job to accommodate a disability, only to make a change allowing the current job to be undertaken.
Analysis of ADA employment claims are complex and every case is different.
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