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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit today against United States Steel Corporation, a Pittsburgh-headquartered steel manufacturing company, claiming it violated federal law by denying a job to an applicant because of his disability. According to the EEOC’s suit, U.S. Steel’s Gary, Ind., plant rescinded an offer of employment and refused to hire an applicant when it learned of his disability through a post-job-offer medical examination. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. United States Steel Corporation, Civil Action No. 2:09-cv-093, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. “People in any workplace should be treated fairly and consistently,” said Danny R. Harter, director of the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office. “Employees must be judged by their ability to do the ... keep reading »
I just read that a group of Washington state residents have filed a lawsuit to force movie theaters to make closed-captioned movies available more frequently to the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Another suit, another settlement, I suppose. But it’s good to keep momentum going on this issue. Since movies became “talkies” 50 years ago, film companies and movie chains have been keeping the hearing and sight impaired from enjoying one of America’s biggest forms of entertainment. I wrote about this issue in 2001 for BusinessWeek. Eight years ago, movie theaters, backed by the Motion Picture Association of America, said they were reluctant to spend money to burn open captions onto films, especially if the technology became “obsolete”. Well, the digital age has arrived, so that argument doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s very cost-effective to embed caption data, and to that end, audio descriptive data, into digital film. It’s just ... keep reading »
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) discrimination claims are likely to be the No. 1 focus for employers in 2009, according to HR Focus magazine, a publication of the Institute of Management and Administration. The Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), which President Bush passed in September 2008, retains the ADA’s original definition of “disability,” but now requires broader interpretation of the term disability. For example, under the original ADA, someone who has weak vision would not be considered disabled if they were able to fix their condition by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Today, that same person could possibly qualify as having a disability under the ADAAA, depending on circumstances. Also, the original ADA said a disability must impair one or more “major life activity”, but kept the definition vague. The new law has expanded the definition to include reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Almost every job requires at ... keep reading »
A few hours ago I read about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s first policy speech detailing how a McCain-Palin administration would help children with disabilities. In Pittsburgh on Friday, Palin dotted her speech with references to her six-month old son, Trig, who has Down syndrome. Oftentimes, these are the most powerful moments in her speeches, where mothers of special-needs children come to her rallies desperate for a remedy to the educational and health-care failures that have plagued them over and over again. Special-needs children are “especially close to my heart,” she tells the crowds. But Palin isn’t the answer. I repeat, she ain’t the quick fixin’ we’re all needin’ in the disability space. Many months ago, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama published on his website a detailed plan to support disabled Americans. The four-point plan is designed to improve educational opportunities, end discrimination, increase employment rates, and support independent living for Americans ... keep reading »
President Bush on Thursday signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a little more than 18 years after his father signed the original ADA. Bush’s father stood by his side as his son signed the bill into law. Barack Obama, one of the bill’s co-sponsor’s, made a statement saying “it must be a priority for our government to do everything it can to protect and respect the needs of these Americans….Eighteen years ago, enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act was a historic milestone for millions of Americans when it was signed into law. It gave Americans with disabilities better access, more opportunities, and increased independence…While we still have much more to do, this law is an important affirmation of our commitment to Americans with disabilities.” For the record, McCain is a supporter of the 1990 law. Palin, who has a son with Down Syndrome, says she will work to “speed research” ... keep reading »
Last August, the US Chamber of Commerce, an association of three million businesses, sent a letter to Congress opposing a bill that would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act. Calling it an essential “re-writing” of the Act, the Chamber said it believed such changes would open the floodgates for litigation by “virtually all of the entire working population in the United States ” who believed they may have been discriminated against due to disability. “The bill would change the definition of ‘disability’ so that any individual with an impairment — such as poor eyesight correctible by wearing glasses — would be considered disabled and would trigger the employer’s duty to accommodate them.” I wrote about disability discrimination litigation for BusinessWeek Online. In a famous 2002 case, Toyota v. Williams, the Supreme Court sided with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, which refused to tailor a job for an assembly-line worker who claimed she developed ... keep reading »
This article that I wrote was published in today’s WSJ in the Careers section. Here’s an online version: Finding the Right Way To Disclose a Disability. I wrote this article because people often ask me if they should disclose, and I’m a believer that it will do more good than harm, as long as you choose a good company and understand how to approach your boss with the types of accommodations you require. I have a disclosure poll up on this blog that you can vote on – I’d appreciate knowing all your opinions. keep reading »
In the New York Times Sunday Magazine’s “Unintended Consequences” (Jan. 20, 2008), authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt pose the argument that some “special-interest” laws, such as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), may hurt the very people it intended to benefit. Dubner and Levitt, who are also the authors of the best-selling book “Freakonomics” and a blog of the same name, give a qualitative and quantitative example supporting their case. First up: A Deaf patient from Los Angeles sought medical advice and treatment for her knee from Dr. Andrew Brooks. She asked the doctor to hire and pay for a sign language interpreter, and told him that she was well within her rights to do so under the ADA. Brooks agreed to pay, but surmised that he’d lose money by treating the patient: “As it turned out, an interpreter would cost $120 an hour, with a two-hour minimum, and ... keep reading »

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