Maine Cases Show Importance of Strict Adherence to Employment Disability Discrimination Laws


Three Maine cases demonstrated how seriously the state takes compliance with disability discrimination laws after rulings by the Maine Human Rights Commission. In the first case, a woman who wanted an interpreter for a 2011 health course was denied that opportunity. On March 31, the group voted unanimously that her rights were violated after hearing oral arguments, which means she might decide to file a lawsuit after the proceedings. The agency also ruled that two people were subject to sexual discrimination at work. In one case, a firm sought to hire a female employee, which was found to be discriminatory towards men. In the other case, a national chain reduced a woman’s hours after she became pregnant.

Seeing the Big Picture of Disability Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 addresses a wide range of disability discrimination laws including applications, hiring, promotions, firing, pay, training and other aspects of employment for businesses with 15 or more employees with few exceptions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission further addresses these regulations, and states often have separate laws. If a business violates these regulations, the plaintiff must complain to the organization and to the EEOC within six months.

Disabilities Defined – Breaking the Mold

The ADA defines disabilities as past or present physical or mental impairments that significantly or permanently hinder the person from seeing, talking, hearing, walking or working. Impairments encompass a wide range of limitations to the major body systems, such as intellectual limitations, some learning disabilities and mental disorders. The ADA has determined that not all impairments are disabilities, especially those that are temporary. The disabled person must not be able to complete essential job functions. The definition of disability does not include most addictions, many sexual disorders, same-sex attraction and bisexuality.

Holding Employers Accountable for Disability Discrimination

An employer must make reasonable accommodations unless it would cause a substantial hardship on the business and could include changes to jobs, work schedules, positions, equipment and other modifications as needed. Substantial hardship could vary depending on the size of the business, as explained in Federal Employment Jury Instructions.

Hitting Employers Where It Hurts – in the Pocketbook

If the court decides that an employer has not taken steps to modify the work environment, they might order the employer to stop their illegal practices and pay restitution, attorney’s fees and related costs. Specifics related to pay and punitive sanctions will be decided by the court or jury, but a plaintiff might not be entitled to punitive sanctions in all cases.

Strengthening Your Own Federal Employment Law Case

Federal Employment Jury Instructions will help you prepare favorable jury instructions that are acceptable to the court, understandable by the jury, and difficult for opposing counsel to challenge. Todd McNamara and


Alfred Southerland’s guide provides conversational, balanced, and accurate charges. Supported by over 1,900 case citations that highlight circuit variations, these plain-English statements of federal employment law will help you:

  • Evaluate your case and pinpoint its weaknesses.
  • Target your discovery.
  • Prepare and organize your proof element-by-element.
  • Efficiently draft charges that will survive the jury instruction conference.
  • Assemble persuasive closing arguments.

In addition, Federal Employment Jury Instructions contains 1,200 current jury instructions, interrogatories, and verdict forms. These concise and balanced models take advantage of the best thinking of numerous specialists. Save research and drafting time, ensure court approval, and give the jury easy-to-follow language.