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Tennessee Employment Law Center Tennessee Employment Law Center
Tennessee Employment Law Center
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Gender Discrimination
National Origin Discrimination
Pregnancy Discrimination
Race and Color Discrimination
Religious Discrimination
Sexual Harassment
...and the Law
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
Employment at Will
Equal Pay Act
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Insurance Benefits on Termination and Resignation (COBRA)
Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA)
Non-Compete Agreements
Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (Rehab Act)
Unemployment Benefits
Uniformed Services Employment & Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA)
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
Workers' Compensation (Workers' Comp)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act make it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability. Companies cannot use a disability as a reason to refuse to hire or promote a worker, to terminate a worker, or to deny a worker privileges and conditions of employment.

The ADA also contains special rules about how employers can question employees about their physical or mental condition, including the administration of physical or psychological tests.

Current users of illegal drugs are not protected by the ADA, and employers may test their employees for current drug use. Former drug use, however, may be protected. The ADA protects a person who has a record of having a disability or who is regarded as having a disability.


  • Qualified Individual means a person with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can carry out the necessary duties of the job she holds or desires.
  • Disabilities are physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activity.
  • Major Life Functions include, but are not limited to, breathing, seeing, hearing, caring for oneself, walking, and working.
  • Reasonable Accommodation means an adjustment to a disabled worker's working conditions or environment to enable her to perform an essential function of her job. To be reasonable the adjustment cannot create an undue hardship for the employer.
  • Reasonable Accommodation includes but is not limited to:
    1. Some renovations to existing facilities to make them readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
    2. Job restructuring.
    3. Modification of work schedule.
    4. Reassignment to vacant positions.
    5. Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices.
    6. Adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials/programs and policies.
    7. Providing qualified readers or interpreters.
  • Undue Hardship means actions which require significant difficulty or expense when considered in the light of several factors. These factors include:
    1. size of the business
    2. financial resources of the company
    3. nature and structure of operation

Filing Requirements and Limitations:

  • Your ADA claim must first be pre-filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the potentially unlawful action or within 300 days of the unlawful action if your state is a referral jurisdiction state. Tennessee is a referral jurisdiction state. The deadline will not be extended because of internal investigation of the incident within the company.
  • A lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of the receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.
  • The ADA only covers businesses with 15 or more employees. State laws prohibiting disability discrimination may have different requirements.

If a worker proves she is the victim of unlawful treatment or discrimination, then the employer must pay damages. The Court may also order the employer to do certain things, such as reinstating the worker. Such orders are called equitable remedies or injunctive relief.

There are several types of money awards. These are Back Pay, Compensatory Damages, Attorneys' Fees, Punitive Damages and Front Pay:

  • Back Pay
    • This is the most common form of relief.
    • Includes the value of wages, salary, and fringe benefits the claimant would have received during the period of discrimination from the date of termination/failure to promote to the date of trial or settlement.
    • You have a duty to mitigate these damages by taking reasonable efforts to find comparable employment after you have been terminated.
  • Compensatory Damages
    • Awarded for emotional distress, pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.
    • Individual claim caps are placed on this type of damages by federal law based on the size of the employer.
  • Attorney's Fees
    • The court may choose to award attorney's fees to the prevailing, or winning, party.
  • Punitive Damages
    • This type of damages is limited to cases in which an employer's discrimination is intentional and was done with malice or reckless indifference to the individual's rights. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for its behavior. Not every case will merit punitive damages. Each case is different.
    • Claim caps also apply to these awards.
  • Front Pay
    • Designed to compensate the victim for anticipated future losses due to the discrimination when the employer refuses to reinstate the employee or when the court determines that reinstatement is not feasible.
  • Injunctive Relief
    • Common examples of injunctive relief include reinstating a terminated employee and ordering the employer to prevent future discrimination or retaliation.
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