OKLAHOMA LOCAL GOVERNMENT NEWS
PUBLISHED QUARTERLY BY THE CENTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY, OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY, SPONSORED JOINTLY BY THE
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, THE OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND THE OKLAHOMA COMMISSION ON COUNTY
GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL, EDUCATION AND TRAINING.
edited by Douglas Wright
Supervisors Need to Know - Is It A
"Disability11 Or Just An Inability?
John did not get the assignment he wanted because he is
Mary lost the job because at 350 pounds she could not fit
into the work station.
Jack just got back to work after 10 days in a mental
Janet can't read because she is dyslexic.
Bill's coworkers are afraid he might have AIDS.
Alice is in a drug rehabilitation program.
Which of these individuals is considered "disabled"
under the new Americans with Disabilities Act?
Probably all of them.
Under the new American with Disabilities Act (ADA),
employers cannot discriminate against individuals with
disabilities who are otherwise qualified to perform the
essential functions of the job. Supervisors must make
"reasonable accommodations" to allow these people to
do their jobs.
In the case of the railroad employee who failed a colorblindness test, a court ruled that he was the victim of
discrimination. Since the worker could make the color
differentiations which were necessary to perform the
job, the employer was using "unfounded stereotyping" to
deny the worker the promotion.
In some cases obesity is considered a handicap. When an
airline refused to hire an applicant as a flight attendant
because he exceeded the weight requirements, the court
found there was no discrimination because the excess
weight was the result of voluntary body-building
exercises. On the other hand, obesity which is a result of
a glandular disorder maybe a disability.
An individual who cannot read because of dyslexia may
have to be accommodated on the job, whereas someone
who cannot read because she dropped out of school may
not be considered "disabled."
Employees who are HIV-positive or who have AIDS are
"disabled" under the law, as is anyone with a contagious
disease which does not pose a substantial threat to the
health of others. Moreover, if someone does not in fact
have AIDS but is believed to have AIDS, he is still
considered "disabled" and is protected under the law.
Mental impairments, including mental retardation and
psychological disorders, are "disabilities." A person
suffering from general "stress" because of job or
personal problems will not be covered by the law. But if
the person is diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having an
identifiable stress disorder, the law would apply.
The possibility of future injury cannot be used to deny
assignments to individuals with disabilities. In one case
a trucking company violated the law when it fired a
driver with a back problem because the doctor said there
was more than a 50 percent chance of future back
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