Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Job Discrimination Claims On The Rise

Claims for employment discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2009 declined slightly from the previous year, but still were at the second-highest level in the agency's nearly 45-year history, as reported by the AP. The year in which the most claims were filed was 2008.

The total number of disability discrimination claims received by the EEOC last year was 93,000. As with most years, discrimination claims based on race (36 percent), sex and retaliation were the most prevalent.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend was last year's 10 percent spike in employment discrimination claims based on disability (21,451 total), the largest bump of any category. Much of that increase, however, can be linked to changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) just before President Bush left office.

Essentially, the ADA amendments lowered the barrier of what is considered a disability to include treatable conditions. For example, diabetics who effectively treat their illness with insulin therapy now are covered by the federal labor law, as are hearing-impaired employees with functioning hearing aids.

Prior to those changes, several Supreme Court rulings exempted those with "partial" disabilities from ADA protections.

Small businesses lacking full-time legal counsel should be aware of this important difference in the law to avoid costly lawsuits. Ask your lawyer if you're not sure, but remember that perceived disabilities can be protected the same as actual disabilities.