Protections for Minnesota Employees with Disabilities
Disabled Minnesota employees are protected under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Under both state and federal law, you are considered a person with a disability if:
- you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity,
- you have a history of a disability, or
- you are perceived as having a disability by the employer.
You also are protected under the ADA if you are discriminated against due to your association with a person with a disability.
So-called “major life activities” covered under the state and federal laws include, but are not limited to: hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for yourself, bending, communicating, and reading.
Critically and importantly, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”) added major bodily functions such as: functions of the immune system, normal cell growth (which covers those with cancer), digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
Minnesota employers are obligated to provide qualified disabled workers with accommodations so they can do their jobs, so long as the accommodations are deemed “reasonable..”
Being a “qualified” disabled worker means you need to be qualified to do the essential functions of the job, meaning you must have the skills, education, credentials, and ability to do the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.
A “reasonable accommodation” is simply any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that allows you to apply for the job, interview for the job, perform the essential functions of the job, and enjoy the benefits and privileges of the job. Some examples of reasonable accommodation are:
- providing or modifying equipment,
- modified work schedules,
- physical accessibility to the workspace,
- readers, and
- modifications to company policies.
The reasonableness of any accommodation will always be judged on a case-by-case basis. So it’s important to get help if you feel like you’re being denied an accommodation that seems reasonable to you.
Employers are required to engage in what’s called an “interactive process” to assist qualified disabled employees in finding a reasonable accommodation. In other words, it’s a two-way-street requirement that some employers fail to satisfy, creating a legal violation that we can also help remedy.