July 26 was the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but even after all this time, employers are still having difficulty meeting the requirements of the law.
For example, take the recently settled disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against multination retail giant Walmart.
In the case, Walmart did not provide communication accommodations for two deaf employees who worked at a Walmart in northwest Washington D.C., in violation of the ADA’s prohibition on workplace discrimination based on an individual’s disability. The EEOC stated that the lack of communication accommodations, such as access to sign language interpreters and closed-captioned training videos, made it difficult for the employees to obtain information from, and participate in, meetings, trainings and other workplace communications. This allegedly violated the ADA requirement that employers provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities unless it would pose an undue hardship.
In the end, Walmart settled. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, agreed to pay $100,000 and provide equitable relief. In addition to the monetary damages, Walmart agreed to revise its reasonable accommodations Management Guidelines and provide ADA training to all non-managerial employees.
The EEOC is only one of the federal agencies that is addressing enforcement of the ACA. The Administration for Community Living (ACL), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been working with federal partners such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure people with disabilities are given a fair chance at employment. The DOJ is enforcing one of the seminal ADA decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, Olmstead v. L.C., that states employees with disabilities cannot be unnecessarily segregated from employees without them. ACL hosted a 20th anniversary celebration of that ruling earlier this year.
And there are government programs in place to incentivize employers to hire people with disabilities, such as the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).
WOTC provides employers with tax incentives to hire identified groups. This includes individuals with a disability who have completed or are completing rehabilitative services from a state certified agency, an Employment Network under the Ticket to Work Program, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Employers hiring people who qualify in this category can earn tax credits up to $2,400 per employee.
WOTC is providing billions of dollars in benefits to employers who are willing to provide someone with a chance to prove themselves in the workplace. And it’s easy to get started.
The only question is are you one of these employers willing to give someone a chance to prove themselves as your next fantastic employee?