When Its Time to File an ADA Complaint

If you've been discriminated against at work because of your disability, there are remedies.5 min read

by Daniel J. McAdam

If you've been discriminated against at work because of your disability, there are remedies. Here are some tips for making the most of them.

"It will forever ruin your career."

"You'll never win."

"Even if you win, the company will make life miserable for you afterwards."

The above quotes are just a sample of the advice that I was given - frequently - when I decided to file a discrimination complaint against my employer. The advice came from friends, and it wasn't unreasonable, or ill-intentioned. But it wasn't good advice. The truth is, most people regard requests for enforcement of anti- discrimination laws the same way they regard fire extinguishers in hallways - they're there, in case of an emergency, but you hope you never have to use them.

Not true. What is true is that, if you see a law being broken, you should report it to the proper authorities. Whether the law in question has to do with protection of personal property, or discrimination, or anything else is ultimately a secondary consideration. When you file a discrimination complaint, you are reporting what you perceive to be a violation of law. The question, then, is not whether you should report the violation, but rather how you should report the violation. Below are some guidelines, developed through experience. Before you dive in, a word of caution: I'm not a lawyer. Since this is a legal matter we're discussing, it's to your advantage to seek competent counsel from a licensed attorney prior to taking any action.

Know What You're Talking About

In the immortal words of Daniel Boone, "Be sure you're right. Then go ahead." The only way that you're going to be sure you're right is to know what the laws are. Your attorney can help you, but you still need to familiarize yourself with the applicable laws and understand their key points.

If you've been discriminated against because of a disability, the best place to start is with a small 32-page booklet issued jointly by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division, entitled "The Americans with Disabilities Act - Questions and Answers." You can get the booklet by writing directly to the EEOC. (The address appears at the end of this article.)

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