ADA Claims, Lawsuits Surged in 2009
If you’re disabled and feel your employer discriminates against you, you’re not alone. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a record number of workplace discrimination claims in 2009 from people with disabilities. The EEOC also filed twice the number of lawsuits in 2009 under the Americans with Disabilities Act as it did in 2008. Claims to the EEOC reached nearly 21,500, while EEOC lawsuits jumped from 37 to 76. What’s driving the surge?
- Disability discrimination claims and lawsuits jump
- Change in meaning of "disabled" protects more people from discrimination
- EEOC takes action in some cases, grants workers right to sue in others
Recession, Changes to Law Fuel Rise in ADA Cases
Two factors have a hand in the increase. The economy shares some of the blame. Just as increased unemployment caused workplace fatalities to fall, more layoffs mean more discrimination claims. Disabled persons naturally suffered their fair share of layoffs as the economy went down. It’s also possible employers targeted disabled persons for cuts unfairly, believing them to be less productive than their able counterparts.
The second factor has to do with a change in the ADA itself. 2009 saw the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 go into effect. With the amendments Congress overruled what it saw as the Supreme Court’s cramped understanding of the ADA. So it refined the definition of "disabled" to protect more people from discrimination. Now it’s illegal to discriminate against someone who might not appear disabled, or who’s medical disability is controlled by drugs, just because of the disability.
The EEOC heads the federal response against employment discrimination of all kinds. States have their own employment discrimination agencies. These can be your first point of contact for most workplace discrimination problems. You must file an EEOC claim soon after you’ve been subjected to discrimination. Usually the deadline is 180 days. It’s an essential first step and you will not be able to sue or recover anything for your harm if you don’t file.
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