The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal employment. It has similar standards for employment discrimination to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applies to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from federal departments and agencies.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects qualified individuals with disabilities. Similar to the ADA, a qualified person can perform the essential functions of the job. A person with a disability has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The employer is required to make reasonable accommodations, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.
Federal agencies typically have their own set of Section 504 regulations that apply to their own programs. Normally, employees are offered the option of an internal complaint within the agency, or an external complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. See the Disability Rights Section Home Page (from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division). Please note that filing an internal complaint does not necessarily preserve your rights to pursue an external complaint. Also, in some cases you may be able to file a Rehabilitation Act lawsuit in court without first filing an administrative complaint.
This information last reviewed 1/18/12.