May 16, 2018, Raleigh, NC—Disability Rights NC has settled a lawsuit against an employer for equal access to employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, it provides an important reminder to businesses that unnecessary job requirements may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The suit was brought on behalf of “Renee” (not her real name), who applied for a job as a counselor. Renee was well-qualified for the position, but the employer refused to hire her because she uses a personal assistant as a driver to accommodate her disabilities.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers may not discriminate based on disability and must make any reasonable accommodations necessary to enable workers with disabilities to perform the core duties of a job. In Renee’s case, she was fully able to serve as a counselor but was not able to drive herself.
“It was painful to realize that I was being denied the position because of my disability,” Renee said. “I can work and want to contribute. I felt it was important to pursue this case because people with disabilities need equal access to jobs.”
In most instances, driving should not be a job requirement unless driving is the purpose of the job, as with a taxi driver or long-haul trucker. Although travel may be required for certain positions, alternative means of travel (e.g., using a driver) are usually sufficient to meet the needs of the employer.
“We often see people with disabilities excluded from job opportunities because employers misunderstand what functions are truly essential or have overstated the importance of minor or even non-existent job tasks,” explained Chris Hodgson, a Disability Rights NC attorney who worked on Renee’s case. “It’s important for employers to consider that an employee with a disability may be able to do the work in a way that’s different from other employees.”
If you have questions about your employment rights as a person with a disability, call Disability Rights NC at (919) 856-2195, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.