Rights and Responsibilities

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against people with disabilities. This includes all areas of employment, such as interviewing, hiring, firing, training, promotions, and benefits. Employers are required by law to give you reasonable accommodations if you need them to be successful at your job.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The ADA doesn’t apply to some federal government jobs. Instead, those jobs are governed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is almost identical to the ADA, except that it only applies to jobs paid for by the federal government. Like the ADA, it makes it illegal to discriminate based on disability and requires you to be given reasonable accommodations so that you can do your job.

Requesting Accommodations

To request an accommodation, you’ll need to take a few steps:

  1. You need to disclose your disability to your employer. You disclose your disability when you tell your employer that you have a disability. You need to disclose this information to your human resources manager or your supervisor. You don’t need to disclose your disability to anybody else.
  2. You can disclose your disability and request your accommodation in person, in writing, or both. To do it in writing can be as simple as sending an email to the appropriate person. You don’t have to write a long, formal letter. It’s a good idea to request your accommodation in writing, because if you ever have problems down the road, you’ll have a written record showing what you requested and when you did so.
  3. Give ideas for accommodations. Your employer may have other ideas as well. Your employer must offer reasonable accommodations, but does not have to give you the exact accommodations you request.

You can learn more detailed information about accommodations in DB101's article on Job Supports and Accommodations. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) also has a lot of information about what types of accommodations exist and how to request them.

Not All Accommodations Are Reasonable

An employer does not have to give you the exact accommodation you want if it is too costly or too difficult to offer for business or operational reasons. For instance, if you have a job as a security guard, your essential function is to watch the cameras and make sure people sign in when they enter the building. Taking long and frequent breaks throughout your shift would not be a reasonable accommodation because it is an essential function of the job to be physically present when the building is open.

Self-Advocacy

When you get a job, you are the person who is most responsible for making sure your job goes well. You are also the primary person who needs to make sure your rights are respected. Making sure your rights are respected is also called “self-advocacy.”

Self-advocacy doesn’t actually mean you have to do everything by yourself. Your family and friends can give you support. At some large companies, there may even be organized groups of disabled employees.

Whether to File a Complaint

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you can file a complaint with either the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR). You cannot file a lawsuit until after the EEOC or MDHR has investigated your complaint. You should only file a lawsuit if all else has failed. It is much better, faster, and easier if you can work things out with your employer.

Legal Resources