Employment law has become increasingly important as social issues emerge and societal needs change due to circumstances that arise. Admittedly, this researcher never gave very much thought to the protection qualities of employment law prior to two specific situations; namely, the studies undertaken in this course as well as the encountering of the situation of the trials faced by an acquaintance who returned home from military service with a disability which impaired their ability to perform job functions as an average individual would be able to do.
It is these two experiences which led to the selection of the Americans with Disabilities Act as the focus of this research. Upon completion of the research, several key facets of ADA, intertwined with the personal experiences observed by the researcher, will provide a well rounded paper. The Evolution of the Americans with Disabilities Act In 1990, the original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act was unveiled, with the express purpose of protecting the disabled from workplace and other forms of discrimination, and to provide for measures and mandates to correct situations to the disadvantage of the disabled.
As a baseline for the Act, disability is specifically defined as: “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities,” as well as a person with “a record of such an impairment,” and a person who is “regarded as having such an impairment (Veres & Sims, 1995, p. 8)”. Another interesting and noteworthy observation of the development of the ADA is that it in fact is a descendant of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made it illegal to discriminate due to race, nationality, culture, and religion- a modernization of Constitutional principles (Veres & Sims, 1995).
Thus, what exist in the ADA are a combination of employment opportunity and the preservation of the essential rights of the disabled. As a personal aside, the ADA recently has made it possible for an acquaintance of the researcher to gain meaningful employment as discussed in the Introduction to the research. Is the Law Imposed by the ADA Effective? From the viewpoint of the personal experiences of the researcher, the ADA has been effective; in fairness, however, this is one isolated case. A proper answer to this question comes from a look at the larger picture of the ADA in a national context.
Overall, the ADA, while not without flaws and room for improvement, has made a huge difference in the ways that disabled individuals are able to live, work, and function in a society which seems to be designed for the most capable members of it. The reason for this continued effectiveness of the ADA is largely due to the evolution of the Act, made possible over the years due to legal precedent, complaints filed by those who feel their rights under the Act have been infringed upon, and a certain level of increased cooperation on the part of employers, public officials, the business community, and the like (Wax, 2003).
Actions Required as a result of ADA The actions required as a result of the ADA have been far reaching, ranging from workplace accommodations to the modification of public buildings, private businesses, and more. The best way to place this into perspective is a simple example- justice is not truly available to all if the courthouses in every small town and large city of America have steps in front of them that keep a significant portion of the population from entering because of their physical limitations which prevent them from climbing those very stairs.
The researcher’s personal experience with an acquaintance with a disability is not one of the ability to walk in this case, but the personal experience has nonetheless opened the eyes of the researcher to those everyday obstacles to disabled people that need to be remedied. While many have been, there remain many more to be corrected in the future. Are Agents/Contract Employees Protected?
Given the economic chaos of the early 21st century, many employers have found it cost effective to forsake the hiring of conventional employees in favor of the use of agents or contract employees, who may come from employment agencies or be solicited by the company itself. In either case, however, these are individuals who are performing work for a given organization, regardless of the payment arrangement set up between worker and workplace.
As such, legal precedent has dictated that contract workers/agents still retain their rights under ADA. Therefore, employers are unable to pick and choose their workers based on whether a worker has a disability or not simply on the basis that a contract, rather than a conventional employment offer, is the bond between the worker and his employer (Stein, 2003). Again, this issue intersects with the larger issue of civil rights. The Union Approach to ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act, in regard to union workplaces, would seem to place the disabled worker on equal status with any other unionized worker. In the personal situation of the researcher, the disabled acquaintance was offered a vacant labor position, and in compliance with ADA, the employer did in fact have to provide reasonable accommodation for the position to be performed by a disabled individual, which brings about some relevant discussion in regard to the dynamic of ADA as it applies to union shops.
First, of course, the ADA provisions only apply to employers of 15 or more (Veres & Sims, 1995), which was the case in the experience of the researcher. That being said, however, the union provisions of the ADA also specify that the ADA is intended to provide equality for disabled workers, but cannot be used by labor unions as leverage to remove non-disabled workers from their jobs in favor of disabled workers, which would essentially amount to the use of the ADA as a hiding place for unionized workplace intimidation (OBrien, 2004).
This being said, however, there have been cases whereby unions have used the ADA as an advantage in the effort to place unions into given workplaces, leading to legal battles and debates about the practical application of ADA and its relative abuses at the hands of those that would exploit it for their own gains, beyond the intended purpose of protecting the disabled from discrimination. Conclusion
This research has combined research and personal experience not only to comprehensively discuss the ADA, but also to show how the Act intersects with the larger issues of civil rights. In this respect, it can be seen how employment law goes far beyond the workplace, but also cuts to the core of the rights of all Americans and the continuation of the freedoms set forth from the beginnings of the nation.
Therefore, in conclusion, what should be understood is the fact that employment law needs to be a priority if Americans are to continue to live free and thrive for generations to come. References O’Brien, R. (Ed. ). (2004). Voices from the Edge: Narratives about the Americans with Disabilities Act. New York: Oxford University Press. Stein, M. A. (2003). The Law and Economics of Disability Accommodations. Duke Law Journal, 53(1), 79+.