Wow. It finally happened. In 2019, ADA disability claims became the #1 type of discrimination claim filed with the EEOC throughout the country (representing 33.4% of all EEO claims filed).
Why is this a big deal? For years and years, the most “popular” protected classes were race (#1) and sex (#2) (although in 2018, race, sex and disability were effectively in a tie position). Ever since the US Congress amended the ADA back in 2008 (dramatically expanding the definition of “disability”), ADA claims have been climbing, resulting in the ADA becoming a “super protected class” in just ten years.
Despite this steady increase in ADA claims, I still find that many employers underestimate the risk. Most employers provide training to managers on how to prevent sexual harassment (and well they should!), but most do not provide training to their leaders on how to recognize and respond to a request for accommodation under the ADA. Remember: a request for an accommodation is the legal equivalent of a complaint of sexual harassment… it triggers a duty for the employer to respond.
Other trends to point out from the EEOC’s recent release of 2019 claim statistics: 1) 2019 represented a record low for total claims filed, only 72,675 (a clear indication of a strong job market), and 2) retaliation claims still represent (by far) the biggest category of claims filed with the EEOC (53.8%). More on this last trend later.
This information is not intended as legal advice