It used to be the case that disabled workers in Tennessee and nationwide had no protection against workplace discrimination. However, in 1990 the federal government enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act is very important to employee rights across the nation, as it prohibits workplace discrimination based on a person's disability. Moreover, it mandates that employers provide disabled employees with "reasonable accommodations" so they can do their jobs.
If an employer has 15 or more workers for at least 20 weeks, it is subject to the ADA. Under the ADA employers are prohibited from engaging in disability discrimination when hiring employees, training employees, promoting employees, paying employees or firing employees. This means that disabled workers cannot be classified differently in a manner that limits their job opportunities more than those of non-disabled workers.
Of course, the ADA can only protect a person if that person is considered "disabled" under the law. Per the ADA, a worker has a disability if he or she has some sort of physical or mental condition that substantially limits a "major life activity." Some examples of this are the abilities to learn, walk, speak or see, among other basic parts of life. Also, the person's disability must make it so that the person would not be able to perform a broad range of activities, not just a couple specific jobs. Deciding whether a person is disabled for ADA purposes is done on a case-by-case basis.
This is only a brief overview of what constitutes a disability for ADA purposes. In addition to protecting disabled individuals from discrimination in the workplace, the ADA also mandates that employers provide disabled workers with "reasonable accommodations" so they can do their job. This topic will be discussed in future posts on this blog. Until then, those who have questions about the ADA or are wondering how it applies to them may want to consult with an employment law attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "Disability Discrimination and the Law," Accessed Sept. 11, 2017