The ADA and Employment

What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, and it provides civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals in the areas of employment, state and local government services, public transportation, privately operated transportation available to the public, places of public accommodation and telephone services offered to the general public.

Which employers are covered by the ADA?
Employers who have at least fifteen (15) employees for a minimum of twenty (20) weeks out of the year are covered by the ADA, as are all governmental employers regardless of the number of employees in the office or unit.

What rights exist under the ADA?
The ADA does not require employers to engage in “affirmative action” programs to hire persons with disabilities. It does prevent employers from engaging in discriminatory practices. Examples of prohibited practices are:

  • An employer may not ask whether an applicant has a disability before making a job offer. Employers can ask whether a job candidate can perform the essential job functions either with or without “reasonable accommodations.”
  • An employer may not recruit in any way that discriminates against applicants with disabilities. For example, if an employer provides background information on the employer’s business to applicants, that information must be available in alternative formats (e.g. braille) for applicants whose disability so requires.
  • An employer cannot fail to make “reasonable accommodations” to the known disability of an applicant or employee during the interview or on the job.
  • An employer may not offer different benefits to a prospective employee because of that person’s disability. For instance, an employer who offers health coverage cannot require a larger co-payment from a disabled employee.
  • An employer may not require pre-employment medical examinations. An employer may require a medical examination after an offer of employment has been made if all entering employees are subject to such examination regardless of disability.

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