Disability bias claims at record
WASHINGTON - The number of workers claiming job discrimination based on disability, religion, or national origin rose to new highs last year, as federal job bias complaints overall stayed at near-record levels.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said yesterday that charges of disability discrimination rose by about 10 percent to 21,451 claims, the largest increase of any category.
The increase coincided with changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act last year that made it easier for people with epilepsy, diabetes, or other treatable conditions to claim they are disabled.
Overall, the commission received more than 93,000 discrimination claims during the 2009 fiscal year, a 2 percent decrease from the record set in 2008, but still the second-highest level recorded.
As in previous years, claims based on race, sex, and retaliation were most frequent.
The commission’s acting chairman, Stuart Ishimaru, said equal employment opportunity “remains elusive for far too many workers.’’ He urged employers to step up efforts to end discrimination.
Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, a series of Supreme Court rulings have generally exempted from its protections those with partial physical disabilities or impairments that can be treated with medication or devices such as hearing aids.
Legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush directs courts to apply the definition of disability generously.
“After this law passed, I think people were more encouraged that if they had a disability that they were able to manage and still experienced discrimination on the job, that they might actually get some relief,’’ said Andrew Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Charges of discrimination based on national origin rose about 5 percent, while religious discrimination claims rose less than 1 percent, to 3,386 claims.
Allegations of race discrimination remained the most frequently filed complaint, accounting for about 36 percent of all filings last year.