The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to prevent workplace discrimination based on disabilities. It also guarantees the civil rights of people with disabilities to participate in state and local government programs and services, and in everyday life as consumers.
Now a bill has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that will protect business owners from “frivolous” lawsuits by making it harder for disabled employees to sue their employers for violating the Act. Proponents of the bill say there is a whole industry of people profiting off ADA lawsuits. According to co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, business owners will now have time to respond to allegations and fix things to be in compliance with the Act.
The bill says that complainants filing a discrimination suit under the ADA must give their employer 60 days to come up with a plan to address the complaint. Then the business has another 120 days to correct the problem. Business groups such as the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National Federation of Independent Business supported the changes.
Opponents of the bill say it significantly weakens the ADA. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to representatives calling the new legislation unacceptable. The group argues that the change gives employers little to no incentive to proactively make sure their workplace is in compliance with the legal requirements for disabled people. Now they can wait until employment discrimination complaints are filed and notification is received before taking care of a problem that was their obligation to fix from the beginning.
Another group of more than 200 supporters of disability rights signed a letter of opposition to the bill. The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities includes the NAACP, the National Bar Association, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Weakening the ADA is not the answer when it comes to frivolous lawsuits according to the bill’s detractors. Ethics laws already bar attorneys from filing frivolous lawsuits and so could be taken care of at the state level by the courts.
The bill will go before the Senate for a vote where its future is uncertain. Top Democrats like Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Tammy Duckworth have already expressed strong opposition to any changes to the ADA. Sen. Duckworth is a decorated veteran of the Iraq war who lost both legs in a helicopter accident.
One of the few Republicans in the House to have voted against the bill was Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers whose son was born with Down’s syndrome. She said that as a member of the disability community she could not vote for the bill.
If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your disability, the experienced Pittsburgh employment lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. can assist you in filing a complaint. Our dedicated employment attorneys will evaluate your case for free and advise you as to your best legal course of action. Call us today at 412-765-1888 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. Our offices are conveniently located in Pittsburgh serving all of Western Pennsylvania including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.
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