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Disability Discrimination

The Idaho Human Rights Act and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit employment discrimination against persons with disabilities. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the law.

Who Is Protected Under State Law?

A “disability” is a diagnosable physical or mental condition which interferes with one of a person’s major life activities, such as walking, doing manual tasks, learning, or working. A person is protected who:

Who Must Comply With The Anti-Discrimination Law?

All employers with five or more workers, any government entity regardless of size, a contractor, or subcontractor for the state, and their agents must comply. In addition, employment agencies and labor organizations must not discriminate against persons with disabilities.

What Are An Employer's Obligations?

An employer may not discriminate against an otherwise qualified worker or applicant with a disability who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. All phases of the employment relationship are covered, such as: hiring decisions, hours of work, wage rate, reasons for discipline, and terminations.

An employer has an obligation to attempt a reasonable accommodation to enable the employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.

An employer must keep medical information secure and separate from general personnel records.

What Is A Reasonable Accommodation?

Accommodations are adjustments to work assignments or work sites which allow the employee with a disability to do his or her job.

"Reasonableness" must be judged in each particular situation, based upon the type and size of a business, the financial resources available, and the cost of a proposed adjustment. An employer is NOT required to make an adjustment that would impose an undue hardship upon its business or create a safety threat not otherwise eliminated with an accommodation.

What Are Examples Of Reasonable Accommodations?

What Kind Of Screening Can An Employer Do?

When interviewing applicants, an employer should NOT ask questions about a person’s health, medical history, or whether he or she has ever filed a worker’s compensation claim.

Applicants should NOT be excluded from a job because of generalizations. Any medical standard or employment policy which automatically excludes entire groups of people (such as all people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or back problems) is suspect.

It is permissible to ask if an applicant is able to perform the specific duties of the job in question with or without an accommodation.

What Are The Obligations Of The Person With Disabilities?

A worker seeking an accommodation must cooperate with the employer in considering various options. An employer is NOT required to provide the “best” accommodation or the one most desired by the employee so long as the one chosen is “effective.”

Are There Exceptions To This Law?

Yes. An employer is not obligated to use a person whose disability makes him or her a serious threat to his or her own health or safety or that of others. The burden of proving this threat is on the employer.

What If A Person With A Disability Is Unable To Do A Job Even After Accommodations Have Been Made?

Employers are not expected to use any workers, with a disability or not, who cannot perform their jobs.

Does This Law Make Good Economic Sense?

Yes. One study found that 50% of job accommodations for workers with disabilities cost under $50. The law helps people with disabilities attain jobs for which they are perfectly qualified. This, in turn, allows them to be self-supporting and full contributors to our state and local communities.

How Is This Law Enforced?

A person who believes he or she has been treated adversely because of a disability, the history of a disability, or a perceived disability should contact the Idaho Human Rights Commission. An administrative complaint may be filed. The Commission will want evidence from reliable medical sources about the particular disability and limitations, if any, it creates in work capabilities. Information also will be collected about any requested accommodations. The employer will be notified of any administrative charge filed and given an opportunity to respond. The Commission will attempt to mediate between the parties and resolve the case on a “no fault” basis. If that is not possible, an investigation will be done. The Commission will advise the parties as to whether there is “probable cause” or “no probable cause” to believe that illegal discrimination occurred.

In addition to this administrative charge processing system, a person with a disability or the Commission can file an action in state district court to enforce the anti-discrimination law. The administrative claim must be filed first, however, and a lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of dismissal of the case by the Commission.

RETALIATION

Retaliation against an individual who has engaged in a protected activity is unlawful. "Protected activity" means opposing conduct which a person, in good faith, reasonably believes to be unlawful under the anti-discrimination statutes or participating in Commission proceedings, which are set up for the enforcement of the anti-discrimination statutes.