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Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 > Disability Discrimination - Pg. 94

Staffing Up 2. 94 One person's hostile environment is another's happy workplace. Many smooth, functional workplaces are rife with what look like hallmarks of the hostile environment but are actually indicators of strong morale. Provocative banter, for instance, is an exceedingly common fea- ture of many functional workplaces, particularly those with a high concentration of young peo- ple. As one young woman said of this: "How else do you expect me to stay awake during the meetings?" The best way to handle this ambiguity is to provide several channels of commu- nication for employees to communicate discomfort, including asking employees if they ever feel uncomfortable as part of annual reviews and documenting their responses. Company-wide training is an employer's best response to the challenges of keeping a workplace harassment-free. Draft your policy, make sure it is disseminated to everyone in the company, con- duct periodic sensitivity training, and be sure that the policies and procedures you set up are followed to the letter, especially with regards to documentation. Age Discrimination The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law applying to businesses with interstate commerce and 20 or more employees that protects those forty and older from discrimi- nation. It does not apply to independent contractors. An employer may be found in violation of the ADEA if the plaintiff shows that he was either denied employment or benefits of employment because of his age, or that he was fired and replaced by a significantly younger person. The employer can avoid all liability by showing that it had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory basis for its decision. The employee would then have to prove that such basis was a pretext for discrimination. Disability Discrimination The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") is a federal law applying to businesses with 15 or more employees who work at least 20 calendar weeks per year. It protects those with physical and emo- tional disabilities from discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' disabilities. This is one of the most expensive and difficult laws with which to comply. Disabilities are defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities. Disabilities may include: infertility, alcohol addiction, and panic dis- order, but the ADA does not protect those addicted to illegal drugs or legal drugs acquired illegally (for example, Oxycodone). It does not apply to independent contractors. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations so that the employee can perform her job unless such accommodations would be an undue hardship for the employer. "Reasonable accommodation" is still a hazily-defined term, but the following are suggested in the Act: · · · · · Making work facilities accessible Modifying job or schedule Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices Modifying exams, training material, or policies Providing interpreters "Undue hardship" is defined as anything requiring significant difficulty or expense compared against the: · Nature and cost of the accommodation required · Financial resources of the facility, number of people employed at the facility, and the impact on resources--financial and otherwise, at the facility · Financial resources of the company and size of the business · Type of business employer conducts with respect to composition, structure, and function of the workforce, geographic distribution, and relationship of facility to company