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Laws influencing the Americans with Disabilities Act

The existence of disability discrimination in the workplace is disheartening and unfortunate. However, various laws have been passed and amended to help disabled workers. Going in order, section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits the federal government, as an employer, from discriminating against individuals with qualified disabilities.

In July of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was signed. It was considered the first comprehensive civil rights law for individuals with disabilities. The Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, in public services, in public accommodations and in telecommunications. This was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which overruled several Supreme Court decisions that made it difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in discrimination actions.

Next, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, or ADAAA, became effective on January 1, 2009, which rejected two Supreme Court holdings that narrowly defined disability. Because this eliminated many individuals with disabilities whom Congress intended to protect, the ADAAA expanded the coverage and protection of the ADA in several ways.

In January of 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was passed. This overturned a Supreme Court ruling that restricted the time period for filing a cause of action for disability discrimination. Additionally, this amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in order to clarify the timeframe in which victims may challenge and recover for disability discrimination. Lastly, in 2011, Regulations to Implement the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act was issued by the EEOC in order to reflect the changes to the definition of disability made by the ADAAA.

As the laws listed above indicate, protecting the rights of employees with disabilities is important. Those suffering from disability discrimination should understand their rights.

Source: Eeoc.gov, "The Law," accessed Aug. 31, 2015

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