Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities in all aspects of employment (for any employer with 15 or more employees), state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities and tranportation. It also mandates the establishment of a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) phone relay system.
Employment (Title I) states: Business must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. Possible changes may include restructuring jobs, altering the layout of workstations, or modifying equipment. Employment aspects may include the application process, hiring, wages, benefits, and all other aspects of employment. Medical examinations are highly regulated.
The employment provisions of the ADA apply to employers of 15 employees or more. Its public accommodations provisions apply to all sizes of business, regardless of number of employees. State and local governments are covered regardless of size.
An individual has a “disability” if he or she meets at least any one of the following tests:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his/her major life activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
Major life activities include hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, walking, caring for oneself, learning or working.
An individual must be qualified to perform the essential functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodations.
Essential functions are critical tasks that an employee or applicant needs to be able to perform. An applicant or employee must satisfy the employer’s job requirements for educational background, employment experience, skills, licenses, and any other standards that are job related. And they must be able to perform those task with or without reasonable accommodations.
Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.
An employer does not have to give preference to a qualified applicant with a disability over other applicants. The employer is free to select the most qualified applicant available and to make decisions based on reasons unrelated to a disability.