This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark federal legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all aspects of public life. Since the passage of the ADA, governments around the world have sanctioned similar laws that ensure people with disabilities have rights and accessibility to resources that support personal growth, independence, and expanded opportunities. In commemoration of this anniversary, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed the Division of Human Rights to implement an expedited process for the investigation and resolution of COVID-19 related discrimination complaints, including those involving claims of disability discrimination.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act has had an indelible impact on our nation, opening doors of opportunities for countless individuals with disabilities,” said Division of Human Rights Interim Commissioner Johnathan J. Smith. “New York State has a long history of fighting for equality and inclusion through our Human Rights Law and we will celebrate this anniversary by redoubling our commitment to these values.”
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Division has received over 75 formal complaints of COVID-19 related discrimination. Many of these complaints involve potential issues of disability discrimination, such as allegations that employers terminated or denied leave for workers who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and that workers with underlying health conditions were not provided with adequate reasonable accommodations. The Division’s expedited case processing effort will ensure that the complaints are promptly investigated and reviewed to determine whether an early resolution or settlement can be reached. If a settlement is not reached, the complaint will then proceed to a public hearing before an administrative law judge within 90 days of the investigative determination.
Additionally, on July 30, 2020, the Division will host a virtual panel discussion that will reflect on the thirty years of progress and challenges since the passage of the ADA. The program will highlight the legal protections for people with disabilities under the ADA as well as comparable sections of the New York State Human Rights Law, and how these laws apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic.