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Summary of Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

It is no secret that running a business is a complicated endeavor... Monitoring the flow of money coming in and going out is crucial for any successful business. While profits are how most businesses bring money in, some companies have the advantage of receiving assistance through economic development subsidies or other forms of government financial assistance. Companies need to know that the receipt of government funds may require the business to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).

Section 504 states that “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial.” While public schools and government departments and agencies are the major programs and activities affected by Section 504, it is important to remember that the Act also reaches certain corporations, partnerships, and other private Organizations.

Application of Section 504 to Corporations, Partnerships and Other Private Organization

Section 504 defines the term “program or activity” to include the operations of an entire corporation, partnership, or other private organization, or an entire sole proprietorship if assistance is extended to such corporation, partnership, private organization, or sole proprietorship as a whole. The term also applies to corporations, partnerships, and other private organizations that principally engaged in the business of providing education, health care, housing, social services, or parks and recreation.

If a company falls under one of these categories, failing to comply with the regulations under this Act can result in future legal problems. It is important to note that small providers are not required to make significant structural alterations to their existing facilities for the purpose of assuring program accessibility, but alternative means of providing the services must be available. However, to ensure that all companies are fully compliant with regulations regarding individuals with disabilities, examining possible America Disabilities Act requirements for a business is also essential.

Determining Violations and Remedies

The most common violations of Section 504 that corporations and other private organization face are with employment discrimination. The standards used to determine whether Section 504 has been violated in a complaint alleging employment discrimination follow the standards applied under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If it is found that a corporation has violated the civil rights of an individual with disability, the company will suffer legal consequences.

A violation of Section 504 can create remedies both at law and in equity. An aggrieved individual with a disability can seek one or more of the several different remedies that stem from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These include, but aren't limited to:

  • Temporary or preliminary relief pending final disposition
  • Injunctions
  • Appropriate affirmative action
  • Equitable relief
  • Accrual of back pay
  • Reduction of back pay

When forming an equitable or affirmative action remedy, a court may take into account the reasonableness of the cost of any necessary workplace accommodation, and the availability of alternative or other appropriate relief in order to achieve an equitable and appropriate remedy. Reasonable attorney fees are also collectable to the prevailing party of a Section 504 complaint, but it is in the court’s discretion whether or not to grant this as part of the judgment.

Receiving federal funding may be the boost that your private organization has been seeking to take you to the next level. However, with government grants come extra responsibilities. Failing to be mindful of these added responsibilities could be extremely detrimental to the growth of your entire business.

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