S. Amir Kohan

ADA Enforcement

The EEOC enforces Title I of the ADA. That agency will accept complaints of illegal discrimination based on mental or physical disability. Once an employee has established that he or she is disabled and claims that he or she has been prohibited from some employment benefit because of the disability (hiring, promotion, access to training, or inappropriate termination), there is a prima facie case (meaning it is true on its surface). Then the EEOC notifies the employer of the complaint and asks for the employer’s response. This process can work back and forth from employer response to employee response for several cycles. Ultimately, the agency will determine that the case has caused (was a valid claim of discrimination), the case had no cause (the claim could not be substantiated), or the case was closed for administrative purposes (the employee asked for the case to be closed, or time for an investigation expired). Each of those three outcomes is followed by a “right to sue” letter, allowing the employee to get an attorney and file a lawsuit in federal court seeking remedies under the law. Once a complaint (called a charge of illegal discrimination) is filed with the EEOC, employers are instructed to cease talking about that issue directly with their employees.

All conversations about the complaint must be directed through the EEOC. Unfortunately, that complicates the communication process, and it provides a strong incentive for employers to resolve complaints internally before they reach the formal external complaint stage. Working directly with an employee on the subject of accommodation, or any other personnel issue is preferable to working through an agency such as the EEOC. For more information, see www.ada.gov/.

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