ADA Mediation; Burton vs. State College!!!

A second year student at State College is majoring in music and uses a wheelchair to get around. Since he has been at State College he has been unable to use the music building on campus because it has no ramps and really tall steps. He has had others carry him into the building at times to use the facilities but considers this to be a hassle and detrimental to his music studies. State college counters that due to the age (200 years) and historical architectural significance of the building it would cost over $1 million to add ramps to make the building ADA compliant.  What do you think?

In this exercise, you will be observing a mediation of a dispute under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The information below is provided to familiarize you with some of the major legal issues presented. After you read the information below and observe the simulation, you should complete the assignment.  You will answer the question posed and post your answer to the Dropbox under Week 4: Simulation.

Background Information:

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The purpose of the ADA is to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in the workforce — as well as in most businesses and other places open to the public — by requiring that “reasonable accommodations” be made for many types of disability.

Prohibited discrimination includes classifying disabled employees so that their job opportunities are more limited than the job opportunities of non-disabled employees, or setting standards that make it harder for disabled employees to compete.

You can review the Act (ADA of 1990, Titles I and V) in detail at the website of The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission . You should skim the Act to understand the definitions that apply and use these definitions to determine if the mediator applies the correct standards.  Remember that the law shapes the propriety of the agreement reached in the mediation.

As the statute points out, the ADA only applies to persons who meet the definition of “disabled” under the Act.  If an employee or other person covered under the Act has impairment that substantially limits his or her ability to perform a “major life activity,” the person is considered disabled under the ADA.

Although the determination of whether a worker is disabled is made on a case-by-case basis, common examples of disabilities include confinement to a wheelchair, blindness, deafness, a learning disability, and certain kinds of mental illness. For example, if an employee is hard of hearing, but has normal hearing when wearing a hearing aid, this employee is not considered disabled under the ADA.

Assuming an employee is disabled under the ADA, an employer has a responsibility to make “reasonable accommodations” for the employee’s disability.  Generally speaking, a reasonable accommodation allows a disabled employee to perform a job in the same manner as a non-disabled employee.

While the ADA applies to all disabled employees of qualified employers, it does allow employers limited latitude in refusing to accommodate the disabled in the workplace.  An employer may also refuse to accommodate a disabled person if the accommodation that would allow him or her to perform the job is not “reasonable.”

Another justification for refusal would be undue hardship if the accommodation would be extremely difficult or expensive. As defined in the Act [Title I, Section 101(10)]:

(A) In general. – The term “undue hardship” means an action requiring significant difficulty or expense, when considered in light of the factors set forth in subparagraph

(B)Factors to be considered. – In determining whether an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on a covered entity, factors to be considered include-    

(i) the nature and cost of the accommodation needed under this chapter;     

(ii) the overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation; the number of persons employed at such facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the facility;     

(iii) the overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees; the number, type, and location of its facilities; and    

(iv) the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity.

Now, please watch the ADA simulation and don’t forget to complete the assignment given below the simulation. The assignment is to answer the question at the bottom of this page using the information provided in this simulation. 



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