Prior to 1990, persons with disabilities had no legal recourse if they were denied a job or terminated because of their disability. In 1990, the United States Congress took note of this unfairness, explaining that millions of disabled Americans had no legal recourse even though they “continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, . . . overprotective rules and policies, . . . exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities benefits, jobs, or other opportunities.”
As a result of these recognized problems, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities. In essence, the ADA was designed to provide a legal avenue for persons with disabilities to bring a lawsuit if a potential employer refuses to hire the individual, or terminates him or her based on the disability. In addition, the ADA requires employers to potentially provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities, if such accommodations will help the employee perform the essential functions of the position.
However, the ADA became a difficult laws for courts to interpret, so in 2009 Congress passed a law that assisted in the interpretation process. Now the law is more clearly interpreted to protect persons with major disabilities that can perform the essential functions of the job – with or without reasonable accommodations. It is important to note that the permanence and extent of disability are the major factors to be considered to determine if the ADA provides protections.