Special Treatment Stigma after the ADA Amendments Act

40 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2015 Last revised: 12 Nov 2015

See all articles by Nicole B. Porter

Nicole B. Porter

University of Toledo College of Law

Date Written: January 20, 2015


This article explores a unique source of stigma suffered by individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Instead of focusing on those with the most stigmatizing disabilities, I focus on those individuals who have disabilities that are not perceived as very severe, yet they still suffer stigma. These individuals are stigmatized because of the special treatment they receive (or are perceived as receiving) through workplace accommodations provided pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In prior work, I have called this phenomenon “special treatment stigma,” the harm that arises from receiving special treatment in the workplace, especially when co-workers believe that the special treatment is unwarranted or unfair. In this article, I explore the scope and magnitude of the harm experienced by individuals with disabilities because of special treatment stigma. This stigma not only manifests itself in resentment and other negative treatment of individuals with disabilities by their co-workers; it also can cause employers to avoid accommodations that place any burdens on other employees, which often limits the ability to accommodate the employee with the disability. After describing the concept of special treatment stigma, this article turns to exploring whether the ADA Amendments Act will exacerbate or improve the problem of special treatment stigma. Because the ADA Amendments Act has made it much easier to prove that an individual has a disability and therefore might be entitled to a reasonable accommodation, it is likely that there will be many more individuals requesting and receiving workplace accommodations. Thus, these increased numbers could exacerbate the problem of special treatment stigma, especially if some of these individuals have what are perceived as relatively minor impairments. On the other hand, as more individuals are considered disabled under the ADA, we could possibly see a growing acceptance of individuals with disabilities; thus, requesting and receiving accommodations might become the “new normal.”

Keywords: disability, stigma, accommodation, discrimination, equality, special treatment, ADA, workplace, employers

Suggested Citation

Porter, Nicole B., Special Treatment Stigma after the ADA Amendments Act (January 20, 2015). Pepperdine Law Review, Forthcoming, University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-08, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2552854 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2552854

Nicole B. Porter (Contact Author)

University of Toledo College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States
419-530-4785 (Phone)

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