South-Western - Management  
You Be the Judge
Topic Managing Human Resource Systems
Key Words Americans with Disabilities Act, federal employment laws
InfoTrac Reference A97729429
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News Story 

Ada Forbes was a customer service representative. She was starting to have memory lapses when she was diagnosed with MS. She began treatment for the disorder, but was concerned about her ability to manage one of her accounts, so she asked her manager to assign someone else to the account. He refused. She later asked his boss and the HR manager, but no one would grant her an accommodation. Finally, as her performance deteriorated, she was fired.

She sued the company for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The company argued that her claim was not valid because her condition didn't leave her limited in a major life activity, as the law stipulated. The question was whether memory and concentration are major life activities.

Uncertainty about what constitutes major life activity is a serious challenge to employers. In Ada's case, the courts ruled that ignoring Ada's request for accommodation and later firing her was a violation of the law, and ruled in her favor.

Companies should make use of their legal advisors in cases in which the law is not clear. Under ADA, an employer has a mandate to engage in a process with the employee to work out a reasonable accommodation.


Explain the purpose behind the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.


Name some of the conditions that would be covered by this act.

Source "You Be the Judge," HR Briefing Feb. 15, 2003, p. 4.
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