Disability discrimination is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). These laws provide that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of life’s major activities. They also require that employers provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees that will allow them to perform the essential functions of the job.
In 2008 Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA), which significantly expanded the definition of “disability” to afford coverage to many employees who previously would not have been considered disabled. Employees with an impairment having effects expected to last fewer than six months can qualify for coverage if the effects are sufficiently severe.
We frequently see cases where an employee is fired because of a disability, or in retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation from the employer, both of which are prohibited under Federal and State law. In many instances these employees are temporarily unable to work because of their disability or because the employer has refused to provide a reasonable accommodation. Because they are out of work and have no source of income, these employees sometimes file a claim for disability insurance under a short or long term disability insurance policy, or a claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unfortunately, while the employer might have violated the law and the employee otherwise entitled to compensatory and punitive damages, filing for disability insurance under an insurance policy or with the SSA can sometimes damage or destroy the disability discrimination claim against the employer. We therefore advise employees to seek legal counsel before applying for disability insurance. It is also prudent for employees to seek legal counsel when navigating the process of requesting a reasonable accommodation from the employer.