ADA May Protect Trainees, Not Just Employees

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) prohibits discrimination against “qualified individuals with a disability” concerning the terms and conditions of employment. This means that if you are considered a “qualified individual” and your employer takes a negative employment action – such as firing, failing to hire, failing to promote or even transferring to a worse location or hours – then you may be able to file a lawsuit against that employer. If you have questions about the ADA, ADAAA or any other employment discrimination concern, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Atlanta disability rights lawyer right away.

In situations involving potential disability discrimination, before you can file a lawsuit you must be able to show that you are a “qualified individual.” Not all injuries or illness are covered by the ADA. A qualified individual with a disability is an individual with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Temporary conditions or conditions that, although serious, don’t substantially limit any of your major life activities are not covered.

A recent case out of Ohio – Rosebrough v. Buckeye Valley High School – looked at whether a school bus driver who lacked a left hand may be considered a “qualified individual” that can pursue a claim for disability discrimination after she was denied a job as a school bus driver. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals determined she could.

Here, the woman was born without a left hand and began drivers training specifically developed for individuals missing limbs. However, due to alleged harassment during the training Rosebrough failed to complete all classes and filed suit under the ADA (the alleged actions occurred before the effective date of the ADAAA).

The appellate court determined that the ADA extends to job trainees, and any job discrimination that occurs during the job trainee process may lead to a discrimination lawsuit. Significantly “[T]he statutory inclusion of ‘job training’ protects individuals while they receive the training required to perform the essential functions of their ultimate job position; it protects them from discrimination that could deny them the means to obtain qualifications necessary to undertake that position,” Judge Jane B. Stranch wrote. “It cannot be disputed that ADA covers individuals in training without regard to whether they are called employees, conditionally-hired employees, trainees, or a title specific to the employer.”

This means that you don’t have to show you can perform all requirements of the job to pursue an ADA claim, being a job “trainee” may be enough.

Because the woman was qualified to be a “trainee,” she was considered a “qualified individual” for bringing a lawsuit under the ADA. Employment laws can be confusing. If you have questions concerning the ADA or believe that you have been subject to discrimination, please contact the top Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.