1. Is there any difference between the way the employment provisions of the ADA apply to private employers and the way they apply to state and local government employers?
State and local government employers have the same obligations to applicants and employees with disabilities that covered private employers do. There are differences that have to do with the recourse and remedies that are available to individuals who allege discrimination.
Punitive damages are not available against state or local government employers. (Punitive damages are designed to punish employers who engage in discriminatory conduct that is malicious or recklessly indifferent to individuals’ federally protected rights.)
Additionally, court decisions related to the constitutionality of the ADA have further limited the availability of monetary damages that may be obtained from state employers.
Individuals bringing private lawsuits against state employers can not obtain monetary damages of any kind. However, individuals may sue state officials in their official capacities to obtain injunctive relief (hiring, reinstatement, policy changes, etc.).
It is important to note that the federal government is not limited the way private individuals are in this respect; the federal government may seek monetary damages against states for violations of the ADA’s employment provisions.
Additionally, the immunity does not apply to local governments. Individuals as well as the federal government may obtain monetary damages against local government employers such as cities and counties.
Visit our “State and Local Government Employers” page for more resources!