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Disability Action Center NW

Disability Work Claims Hit Record High

(USA TODAY, and WLTX)- More people with disabilities filed discrimination charges against their employers last year than at any time in the 20-year history of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Over 21,000 ADA-related charges were filed with the EEOC in 2009. The main reasons for the increase: the recession and an amendment to the ADA that broadened the definition of what it means to be disabled.

According to an interview in USA Today, a spokesperson for the Multiple Sclerosis Society was quoted as saying, “people with disabilities may be seen as less productive, which puts them more at risk for layoffs”.

The amendment, which took effect in 2009, undid limitations on the ADA by the Supreme Court in a series of rulings. The Supreme Court had restricted the reach of the ADA by excluding people who had disabilities that were not visible or were controlled by medication, such as epilepsy or diabetes.

Bottom Line: EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum told USA Today that the law helps everyone. “You might not think you have a disability, but if you have a medical condition and feel you are discriminated against based on your condition, then you are covered.”

Eric Peterson, with the Society of Human Resource Management adds that employers shouldn’t be scared by the numbers either.

The EEOC concluded over eighteen thousand cases last year; it tossed out 60% as having no basis under its rules. It says half the rest ended in financial settlements or some outcome favorable to the worker.