Celebrating 23 Years of the ADA — Gateway to Equal Opportunity in the Workplace

July 25, 2013

 THURSDAY: Gateway to Equal Opportunity in the Workplace

This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities.  Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to equal opportunity in the workplace.

 More students with disabilities are earning high school and college diplomas than ever before.  Like everyone else, these students hope to find a job in the field they worked so hard to master.  But for workers with disabilities, barriers to getting jobs, keeping jobs and enjoying the same opportunities offered to nondisabled employees persist. Vestiges of outdated attitudes and stereotypes still keep qualified people with disabilities unemployed, as do inaccessible workplaces or lack of reasonable accommodations.  The Civil Rights Division continues to work to ensure that applicants and employees with disabilities are treated fairly and have equal opportunity to succeed in the workplace.

 Remedying Employment Discrimination in Erie County, N.Y.:  On July 10, 2013, the Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with Erie County, addressing the county’s refusal to promote a park maintenance worker with monocular vision.  Although the county stated that it denied the promotion because he did not have a commercial driver’s license, the department found that the employee was qualified for the promotion and that he could perform all the essential job duties.  The department also found that other employees who did not have commercial driver’s licenses had been promoted to the same position. 

 Under the terms of the agreement, which must be approved by the court, the county will pay the victim $22,486 in back pay and interest, offer him a promotion with remedial seniority, provide ADA training to staff, designate a county employee to address ADA matters and provide reports to the department. 

 Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to Receive Integrated Employment Services in Rhode Island:  On June 13, 2013 the division announced an interim settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence to address the rights of people with disabilities to receive employment and daytime services in the community, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs.   The agreement will help approximately 200 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The agreement calls for individuals to receive employment services to support a normative 40 hour work week, with the expectation that individuals will work, in a supported employment job at competitive wages for at least 20 hours per week.

In a related matter, the department recently intervened in a lawsuit in Oregon after finding that the state is not providing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with employment services in the most integrated setting appropriate.  Click here to read more.  Remembering that separate is not equal, the United States will continue to enforce the ADA’s integration mandate and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. to ensure that people with disabilities receive employment services in the most integrated setting appropriate. 

To find out more about equal opportunity in the workplace, visit DOJ’s Title I website, and to learn more about DOJ’s Olmstead enforcement efforts within the employment context, visit DOJ’s Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone website.  Visit the ADA Anniversary Webpage to view previous blog entries, and for more general information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit  ADA.gov, or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).