In 1990, the federal government passed the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities when hiring, firing, promoting, training, allowing advancement opportunities and other terms and conditions of employment.
Are all companies subject to the ADA?
No. Like Title VII, an employer must have at least 15 employees.
What is a "qualified individual" under the ADA?
A qualified individual with a disability is someone who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. What this means is that the person must:
- satisfy the job requirements from an educational perspective, experience, skills and any other standard that may be job related; and
- be able to perform the essential duties of the job.
I am concerned that my employer will say all the functions of my job are essential. Are there any guidelines that I can turn to?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the ADA, has developed some factors to determine if a function is essential. They include:
- whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function;
- how many other employees are available to perform the function; and
- the degree of skill or expertise required to perform the function.
How is a disability defined?
An individual is considered to have a disability if she:
- has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- has a record of such an impairment; and
- is regarded as having such an impairment.
Does the ADA cover people with AIDS?
Yes. The law protects individuals with AIDS and HIV disease from discrimination.
Is illegal drug use covered by the ADA?
No. Applicants and employees who currently use illegal drugs are specifically excluded from coverage.
I understand that as an employer I must make a reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability. What types of accommodations may this include?
Reasonable accommodation may include:
- making existing facilities more readily accessible;
- restructuring jobs, modifying work schedules or reassigning to a vacant position; and
- modifying equipment, providing training, materials or policies that assist the disabled.
What can I do if the reasonable accommodation creates an undue hardship?
The EEOC recognizes that in cases where the accommodation would be unduly expensive, substantial or disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature of the business, a hardship would be created. If this is the case, the employer is expected to try to identify another accommodation that would not impose such a hardship.