The ADA is a federal law that prohibits disability discrimination in recruitment, hiring, advancement, training, and other privileges of employment. The ADA may apply if you are a covered employee (or job applicant) for a covered employer.
First Requirement: Am I a covered employee or applicant?
Employees or job applicants must be “qualified individuals with disabilities,” to be covered.
ADA Definition of “Disability”
The ADA applies to people who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Examples of major life activities include seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working. They also include serious medical problems that affect internal bodily functions that do not have as many outward signs of limitation (for example, gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, sleep disorders, and heart disease).
Substantially limits means unable to perform or significantly restricted in performing a major life activity.
ADA Definition of “Qualified”
You are considered to be a qualified individual if you meet the legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of the employment position, and if you can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. In other words, you have to meet the legitimate job requirements and be able to do the job.
In rare cases, a person can be denied employment when their disability creates a substantial risk of harm to themselves or others.
Second Requirement: Is my employer covered?
The ADA applies to private, state, and local government employers with 15 or more employees. There are some limited exceptions.
If you meet the “covered employee” requirements and your employer is covered, you have rights under the ADA. Those rights include protections against disability discrimination and the right to reasonable accommodations at work.
A state law, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides similar rights to a broader group of people with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act provides similar protections to Federal employees and other employers that receive federal funding.
Filing a Claim Under the ADA
In order to bring a lawsuit under Title I of the ADA for failure to provide reasonable accommodations or disability discrimination in employment, you must first file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and receive a “right to sue” letter.
In New Jersey, the deadline to file an ADA charge with the EEOC is normally 300 days from the date of the violation. In some other states, the deadline is 180 days.
Some private employers, unions, and state agency employers have additional internal complaint or grievance processes for complaints of disability discrimination. Filing such internal complaints often does not stop the 300 day deadline from running for you to file an ADA charge with the EEOC. Be careful to avoid losing your rights.
You can file dual claims for both ADA charges for disability discrimination and an administrative claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Although the ADA claim must be filed within 300 days of the alleged violation, you must file a dual claim within 180 days to also preserve your NJLAD claim.
An EEOC charge may be filed by mail or in person at the nearest EEOC office.
For Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem counties, use the Philadelphia EEOC office. Contact information is found at https://www.eeoc.gov/field-office/philadelphia/location.
For other New Jersey counties, use the Newark, NJ EEOC office. Contact information is found at https://www.eeoc.gov/field-office/newark/location.
How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination (from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
This information last reviewed: Feb 24, 2022