Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Employment Protections

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: August 08, 2022

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The ADA went into effect in 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on a person's disabilities and provides certain protections. The main goal is to insure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. There are five main areas that the ADA covers:

  • Employment (Title I).
  • State & Local Government (Title II).
  • Commercial facilities (Title III).
  • Telecommunications (Title IV).
  • Miscellaneous Provision (Title V).

Title I Employment Protections

  • Applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Covers the definition of disability and its relations to the workplace, reasonable accommodations, medical examinations and injuries, and other safety concerns related to the person with a disability and their ability to perform their essential work functions.
  • In order to be covered under the protections of the ADA, you must also be qualified for and able to perform the “essential functions” of the job. These “essential functions” include the fundamental duties required by the job.

Employment Practices Covered by the ADA

  • Recruiting and advertising for job openings.
  • Job application and hiring.
  • Training.
  • Job assignments.
  • Tenure & promotions.
  • Pay, benefits & leave time.
  • Firing or lay off.
  • All other employment-related activities, terms, conditions, and privileges

Reasonable Accommodations

The ADA also requires employers to offer and make “reasonable accommodations”, which are adjustments to the job that let an employee with a disability keep working and doing the essential functions of their job. Reasonable accommodations include:

  • Providing equipment or devices, or adapting them, so the person with a disability can use them.
  • Restructuring a job.
  • Changing work schedules.
  • Reassigning the employee to a vacant position.
  • Adjusting or modifying tests, training materials, or policies.
  • Providing electronic readers and/or interpreters.
  • Making the workplace easy to get into and use for people with disabilities.

Your employer is only required to offer reasonable accommodations if they are aware of your disability. So, you must be comfortable and willing to disclose the nature of your disability if you want to receive assistance from your employer under the ADA to continue working in your current job.

However, the ADA mandates what an employer (or potential employer) can ask about your disability. An employer cannot ask if you are disabled, the nature of your disability, your medical/treatment history, or the medicines you take. An employer can ask about your ability to perform certain job tasks. In turn, the employee is the person who must tell the employer that an accommodation is needed.

If you think you have been a victim of discrimination at work as a result of your disability, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000. Keep in mind that a discrimination claim must be filed within 180 days of when the discrimination occurred.

Resources for More Information

American Cancer Society Understanding Financial and Legal Matters atters/americans-with-disabilities-act

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Job Accommodation Network

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