At the federal level the Americans With Disabilities Act protects individuals who are disabled or perceived as disabled from discrimination.
As summarized by the EEOC, the ADA is inteded to protect individuals in the following manner:
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. The ADA's nondiscrimination standards also apply to federal sector employees under section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and its implementing rules.
An individual with a disability is a person who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:
- Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
- Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position;
- Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters.
An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.
An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation; nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.
Title I of the ADA also covers:
- Medical Examinations and Inquiries
Employers may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in similar jobs. Medical examinations of employees must be job related and consistent with the employer's business needs.
- Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Employees and applicants currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs are not covered by the ADA when an employer acts on the basis of such use. Tests for illegal drugs are not subject to the ADA's restrictions on medical examinations. Employers may hold illegal drug users and alcoholics to the same performance standards as other employees.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on disability or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADA.
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission handles claims on the federal level. They enforce federal anti-discrimination laws including laws against sexual harassment. The claim must be filed within 300 days of the occurence.
The EEOC can be contacted at:
U.S. Equal Employment Oppor. Comm'n Chicago District Office
500 W. Madison,
Chicago, IL 60611-2511
(312) 353-2713; 2714
(312) 353-2421 (TDD)
(312) 353-7355 (Fax)
The State of Illinois uses both the Illinois Department of Human Rights and Illinois Human Rights Commission to handle claims under the Illnois Human Rights Act. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the occurence.
A charge is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and an agent is assigned to investigate the claim. If the claim is found to have merit a charge is filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. An individual has a right to file a charge with the Illinois Human Rights Commission even if the IDHR does not find their claim to have merit.
The Human Rights Commission assigns an administrative judge to the case and a public hearing is held to determine the merits of the claim.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights can be contacted at:
Illinois Department of Human Rights
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 263-1579 (TDD)
(312) 814-1541 (Fax)
If you live in Cook County you can file a charge with the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights is charged with applying the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.
The Commission on Human Rights can be contacted at:
Cook County Commission on Human Rights
69 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-1101 (TDD)
(312) 603-9988 (FAX)
The city of Chicago Commission on Human Relations hears complaints filed by plaintiffs and can award monetary damages to the successful plaintiff.
Filing a charge with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations is free and no lawyer is required to pursue a case. Though it is generally advisable to hire a lawyer to represent you as the defendant usually will and the legal arguments will be more familiar to a lawyer.
The Commission on Human Relations can be contacted at:
Chicago Commission on Human Relations
740 N. Sedgwick,
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 744-1088 (TDD)
(312) 744-1081 (FAX)