Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 is a part of the United States Code affirming the rights of individuals with disabilities to employment, housing, education, communication, transportation, and other public and private services. It was also amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which took effect on January 1, 2009.

This act expanded the definition of the word “disability” to encompass a wider range of conditions not previously covered by Supreme Court interpretations of the word. This expansion allowed for a broad scope of protection and made it easier for people to demonstrate that they have a disability and are justified in bringing an ADA claim.

Free Resource: HR Compliance Checklist

To run a successful (and above-board) business, HR needs to get compliance right every time. Our HR Compliance Checklist can help you start auditing your processes—and get some much-needed peace of mind.

Download Now

Who Is Covered Under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act expressly forbids discrimination against people with disabilities when it comes to employment (including hiring practices and everyday job performance), public accommodations, communications (including websites), transportation, and access to government services.

The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as speaking, hearing, seeing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, or working. When the ADAAA was signed into law in 2008, it expanded this definition to include other actions, such as bending or lifting objects.

The ADA, along with federal agencies like the Department of Labor, supports people with disabilities by establishing and promoting guidelines to help employers, government agencies, businesses, website owners, and other entities make reasonable and appropriate accommodations to promote accessibility.

How Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Affect Employment?

The ADA added the issues of people with disabilities to the purview of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Created to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC is responsible for finding and remediating discriminatory employment practices.

If a person with a disability can perform the essential functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation, then employers covered under Title I of the ADA cannot refuse to hire them on the basis of their disability. Employers with 15 or more employees are required to comply with this rule.

If an employer refuses to do so, a person may file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. The agency will then investigate the claim and may decide to pursue a settlement or lawsuit against the employer. If the agency cannot determine whether an ADA violation has occurred, the person who filed the charge may then decide to sue the employer for discrimination.

Here’s what is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act when it comes to employment:

The ADA also prevents employers from retaliating against disabled persons who assert their rights under ADA Title I.

What Enables an Employee to Be Covered by the ADA?

To qualify for ADA protection, an employee must meet two criteria. First, they need to satisfy the requirements listed in the employer’s job description, including employment experience, skills, licenses, and education. Second, they must be able to perform essential job functions, whether on their own or with the help of a reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot refuse to hire a person whose disability prevents them from performing non-essential duties.

How Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Define Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable accommodations are changes or adjustments to a job or work environment that provide accessibility for persons with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations include the following:

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they can show that the accommodation would create an undue hardship through significant difficulty or expense.

Tips for Employers When Employees Request ADA Accommodations at Work

If you are an ADA-covered employer with at least one employee with a disability, you must do everything in your power to provide reasonable ADA accommodations in the workplace if the employee requests them. Here are a few tips for handling these requests:

Don’t forget that violating your employees’ rights can lead to serious trouble with the EEOC or result in lawsuits. Consider the law and the needs of your employees as you move forward with accommodations requests.

Employees want to be heard. Is your organization listening?

With accurate, reliable employee surveys in BambooHR, you'll gain the insight you need to prevent burnout, improve morale, and stop premature turnover in its tracks.

Get a Free Demo Today