Individuals with disabilities face discrimination every day. In most cases, discrimination is based on perceived limitations and prejudice rather than reality. This can affect whether an individual gets a job, gets a promotion, finds affordable housing, or even if they are allowed to access places the general public is welcomed. Every individual with a perceived disability should be judged on their merit. In the case of discrimination, an individual may seek justice through filing a lawsuit, to make sure they are treated fairly, and help to ensure that the discriminatory practice won't continue to harm others.
Disability Discrimination Laws
People with disabilities are entitled to equal opportunities under the law. This includes equal opportunities in employment, access to buildings and public spaces, and housing options. For disabled individuals in Illinois, there are both Illinois state and U.S. federal laws to protect them from discrimination.
Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2010 (ADA), a qualified individual with a disability cannot be treated unfavorably by an employer because they have a disability. This law protects both employees and job applicants. A disability can also include someone with a history of a disability or illness. It also protects people based on their relationship with a person with a disability, such as a parent who has a disabled child.
According to the ADA, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” Major life activities include things like performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, breathing, learning, communicating, working, thinking, reading, and walking.
ADA employment protections apply to businesses with 15 or more employees. Under the ADA requirements, employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, unless doing so would cause undue hardship or significant difficulty.
ADA protections apply to all aspects of employment and workplace life. This includes hiring, firing, job assignments, training, fringe benefits, pay rate, promotions, and any other terms and conditions of employment. It also applies to harassment the employee may experience in the workplace. It is illegal for employers, supervisors, or other employees to harass an employee because they have or have had a disability. Harassment includes teasing, offensive remarks, or other incidents that create a hostile work environment.
Illinois State Protections
The State of Illinois also has statutes and laws to protect disabled individuals from employment discrimination. Under Article 2 of the Illinois Human Rights Act, employees are also protected from discrimination based on their disability. Unlike the federal law, Illinois protections extend to all employers, regardless of the number of employees.
Under Illinois law, it is illegal to exclude a disabled person from job opportunities, unless they are unable to do the job despite reasonable accommodations by the employer. An employer must make a reasonable accommodation to your known mental or physical limitations, it will enable you to perform the basic job functions of the position.
Before you are offered a job, an employer may not ask you about your medical or mental impairments. Once a job offer is made, the employer may ask about medical or mental impairment that may affect your ability to perform the basic job functions, but only if they ask all job applicants the same question.
Examples of Disability Discrimination From Employers
When interviewing for a job, or performing your daily work duties, it may not be obvious that an employer or co-worker is acting in a discriminatory way. Often times, discrimination takes place without any outward expression that the employer is judging you based on your perceived disability.
When taking an adverse employment action, an employer may give a made up reason for the decision, rather than state that it was because of the employee's disability. An individual may show they were fired as a pretext by demonstrating the defendant did not enforce rules equally, acted against company policy, or did not carry out procedures equally.
Since many disability discrimination cases can be difficult to prove, you should consider speaking with an attorney to evaluate your case. A lawyer with disability discrimination experience will help you understand the legal process, and whether you may have a case against someone for violating state or federal disability discrimination laws.
Disability Discrimination in Housing
Another common area for people to encounter discrimination is when they are looking for housing. Some property owners or managers may deny renting a home or apartment to someone with a perceived disability. If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can also seek out an experienced disability discrimination attorney to file your lawsuit in state or federal court. There may be a statute of limitations on your discrimination claim, so you should consider contacting an attorney as soon as you can, to make sure get the fair treatment you deserve.
Disability Discrimination in Public Accommodation
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public accommodations. This generally includes business open to the public, including schools, libraries, parks, hotels, doctors' offices, and restaurants. If you believe you have been a victim of disability discrimination in public accommodation, you may want to contact a disability discrimination attorney to seek damages in state or federal court.
Filing a Disability Discrimination Complaint
In order to file a disability discrimination complaint related to employment, the individual may first file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). A discrimination complaint must be filed with the state within 180 days of the discriminatory employment action or hiring action. The IDHR will then investigate your case.
A discrimination charge may be cross-filed with the EEOC. The EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency responsible in employment discrimination cases. The federal deadline for filing a claim is 300 days after the discriminatory action. If you file both an Illinois state and a federal charge, the IDHR may still conduct the investigation on the EEOC's behalf under a shared investigation agreement.
According to the IDHR, you should obtain an attorney if you want someone to advocate for your or represent you during the claim process. If your discrimination complaint is not resolved through the IDHR or EEOC process, you may request a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the EEOC, and then take your case to court.
Illinois Disability Discrimination Attorneys
If you suspect that you were not offered a job, fired, or passed over for a promotion because you are disabled, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois disability discrimination cases. Our attorneys have successfully handled discrimination lawsuits for our clients in Peoria and throughout the State of Illinois. If you have suffered financial or emotional injury as the result of disability discrimination, contact your experienced Illinois discrimination attorneys. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve.