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What are Disability Discrimination Lawsuits?

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  • Written By: L. Dunne
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA,) along with other several others laws, have been enacted to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. These acts require companies, organizations, and government facilities to provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. Individuals who are discriminated against in the areas of building design, employment, housing and education, places of public accommodation, or government facilities due to disabilities have the right to file disability discrimination lawsuits.

In order to prevail in a disability discrimination lawsuit, an individual must be able to prove the existence of his or her disability under the ADA. The ADA is quite broad in its definition of a disability, and failure to prove the impairment will most likely result in loss of the lawsuit. Similarly, the accommodations the disabled party requests of the other party need to meet the definition of reasonable as set forth in the law. The disabled party must also be able to prove prima facie that discrimination occurred. This means that he or she has evidence that adequately establishes the discrimination, unless otherwise rebutted.

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To file a lawsuit against an employer, landlord, educational facility, or public place, the individual should first contact the office corresponding to the type of accommodations he or she is being denied. For instance, if discrimination has occurred in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) should be contacted, if in housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will handle the complaint. These offices will attempt to resolve the problem. If this fails, the office will investigate the allegations of discrimination and determine if there is reasonable cause to believe the discrimination occurred.

If the office determines that there is no reasonable cause, the complaint will be dismissed. If there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, the office may file disability discrimination lawsuits on behalf of the victims. Due to time and expense constraints, not all offices are able to file lawsuits for all victims. Some, like the EEOC, may give the victim a right-to-sue letter. These letters allow victims to file their own disability discrimination lawsuits.

If discrimination is found and the office is unable to file the lawsuit, the victim should consult an attorney who specializes in civil rights and liberties. This attorney will file the lawsuit in the appropriate court, organize the case, and work with the department that found reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred to obtain the best possible settlement or judgment. The ADA allows for payment of attorney fees to be ordered against the discriminating party, as well.

Aside from the ADA, individuals can bring disability discrimination lawsuits based on the following: the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These are federal laws, but many states have their own laws that mirror federal provisions. Some cities and local ordinances have these types of laws, as well, but the federal laws will always take precedence over those of city and state.

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