ADA Proof of Disability

An employer has no right to ask an employee to provide proof of disability unless the employee requests a reasonable accommodation and the employer does not believe disability exists.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Can my boss ask me if I have a disability?

In the United States, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer is prohibited by law from asking an employee about their disability. The ADA is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in various aspects of employment. An employer is allowed to ask about an employee’s medical condition or disability only under certain circumstances. These situations include the following:

  1. Requests for accommodation. If an employee requests a reasonable accommodation for their disability, such as wheelchair ramps, the employer is permitted to ask for information that is needed to evaluate the accommodation request. That said, the employer should keep this information private and separate from other employment records.
  2. Voluntary self-identification. Employers are permitted to ask employees to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with disabilities for the purpose of collecting data related to affirmative action requirements. That said, this information should also be kept private and only used for aggregate reporting.
  3. Job-related qualifications. An employer is allowed to ask about a candidate’s ability to perform the functions of the job. These questions, however, should focus on the main duties of the job. For example, if a job requires heavy lifting, the employer can ask if the candidate is able to lift a certain weight.

It is important to note that an employer’s questions should not be designed to uncover a candidate’s disability or otherwise pry into the individual’s medical history. This line of questioning would be viewed as discriminatory under the ADA. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that local regulations and laws may offer additional protections that go beyond the ADA.

How do you prove that you have a disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals are not required by law to supply proof of their disability to their employers. The ADA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having this kind of impairment.

When it comes to employment, an individual with a disability is responsible for letting their employer know about their need for accommodations. In general, an employer or their ADA defense attorney is permitted to ask for documentation or verification of the disability when an employee makes a request for accommodation.

The documentation should establish that the person has a disability within the ADA’s definition and offer relevant information about how the disability impacts the individual’s ability to perform job-related tasks. That said, the documentation should not reveal extensive, detailed medical information that should remain confidential.

The ADA does not detail specific requirements for the format or type of documentation. The employee and employer should engage in an interactive process to figure out what information is necessary to establish the existence of a disability and the need for reasonable accommodations.

It is important to remember that while an employer has the right to ask for documentation, they should not ask for intrusive or unnecessary medical information or otherwise pry into an individual’s personal medical history. The ADA emphasizes confidentiality and privacy in dealing with this kind of information.

If an individual has any issues or concerns related to submitting this kind of proof, they should not hesitate to consult with an employment law attorney.

How to file a disability claim against an employer?

To file a claim against an employer for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual will need to follow these steps:

  1. Know your rights. Get to know the ADA in detail, including its provisions regarding discrimination in the workplace. This will help you know if you have a legitimate claim.
  2. Document incidents. Collect and organize any evidence that supports your claim. This could include emails, memos, witness statements, performance evaluations, or other relevant proof.
  3. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Prior to filing a lawsuit, you will usually need to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. This can be done by visiting your local EEOC office, calling them, or submitting a claim online via their website.
  4. Supply detail. Provide details of the specific discrimination, including dates, names if involved individuals, and a description of events. Make sure to clearly explain how you think the employer violated the ADA.
  5. Retaliation concern. If you are worried about possible retaliation, mention this in the claim. The ADA prohibits retaliation against employees who engage in the EEOC process.
  6. EEOC investigation. The EEOC will then look into the claim, which could involve conducting interviews with the relevant parties and studying the evidence. They may attempt to mediate.
  7. Get a “Right to Sue” letter.  After the EEOC concludes their investigation, they will either give you a “Right to Sue” letter or take legal action on your behalf. The letter allows an employee to file a lawsuit against their employer.
  8. Speak with an attorney.  It would be wise to seek the advice of an employment law attorney who specializes in disability discrimination cases. They can offer advice on the strength of the claim and guide you through the legal process.
  9. File a lawsuit. If an individual decides to take their case to court, they should be sure to file a lawsuit in the appropriate time limit listed in the “Right to Sue” letter. An attorney can help prepare the relevant legal documents and represent you in court.

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