July 26, 2014 is the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Title 1 of the ADA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified job applicants and employees based on their physical or mental disabilities. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees who need them because of their disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business. These requirements apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, and state and local governments.
We are proud of our efforts to enforce this landmark law and will continue to work to eradicate disability discrimination. To that end, the Commission recently adopted a Strategic Enforcement Plan, identifying certain emerging issues under the ADA as a national enforcement priority.
Since EEOC began enforcing the ADA in July 1992 the number of charges alleging disability discrimination has grown from just over 15,000 in FY 1993 to near 26,000 last fiscal year. Through the resolution of these charges during the investigatory process and conciliation, the EEOC has obtained millions of dollars in monetary benefits, most recently obtaining $109.2 million for the victims of disability discrimination in FY 2013. A few recent and notable conciliations are highlighted below:
Since July 2013 alone, the Commission has filed more than 50 lawsuits alleging disability discrimination. The Commission filed these lawsuits to seek relief for discrimination victims with a variety of impairments, including cancer (e.g., breast cancer, basal cell carcinoma, and colon cancer), dwarfism, epilepsy, deafness, blindness, retinitis pigmentosa, Fuchs Endothelial Dystrophy, Usher's Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, HIV, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, neuropathy, herniated discs and other back impairments, diabetes, anemia, coronary artery disease, end-stage renal disease, PTSD, narcolepsy, depression, anxiety disorder, and dyslexia.
The alleged discrimination has included failure to provide reasonable accommodation (including the failure to provide appropriate leave for disability-related needs or treatment); asking prohibited disability-related questions of employees; refusing to hire qualified applicants based on myths, fears, or stereotypes concerning certain impairments, and discharging qualified workers on the basis of disability.
A few notable cases addressed by courts or resolved over the past year are highlighted below:
Other significant resolutions of EEOC cases involving leave and attendance policies from previous years include Interstate Distributor, ($4.85 million nationwide resolution challenging maximum 12-week leave policy), Supervalu ($3.2 million resolution challenging termination of approximately 1,000 employees at the end of medical leave),Sears ($6.2 million resolution challenging automatic termination policy and failure to accommodate employees injured at work) and Verizon ($20 million nationwide resolution challenging "no fault" attendance policy).
In fiscal year 2013, the Commission's outreach, education and technical assistance efforts focused on increasing voluntary compliance with federal equal employment laws and on improving employee and employer awareness of rights and responsibilities under federal employment discrimination laws, especially among underserved groups and in underserved areas. To this end, in FY 2013 the EEOC reached more than 60,000 individuals with information concerning the ADA through 850 outreach and education events. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people educated about the ADA over the past 24 years.
The Commission has developed a robust catalogue of technical assistance documents on the ADA as well as publications outlining how the law may apply to medical conditions, and the workplace rights of individuals with those conditions. On May 15, 2013, the EEOC issued updates on four of these documents to address how changes in the definition of "disability" as a result of the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) may affect who is covered under the ADA. The revised documents include the following:
Additionally, the EEOC has recently issued guidance designed to address questions from mental health providers concerning their role in the reasonable accommodation process, as well as the employment of veterans with disabilities.
We will continue our efforts to eradicate discrimination in the workplace by enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws and educating employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities.