Have you ever walked around your office space and wonder about your handicapped/handicapable friends? Have you considered whether they would be able to do a job or how they might accomplish it. This brings me to the topic of today’s post, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As always, please feel free to comment about your opinions and experiences below.
EEO Laws - ADA
Building off of the previous Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, allowing those with disabilities to seek accommodation in modern life, especially in dealing with employment. The law also makes hiring, firing, promotion, training, and other employment choices based upon one’s disabled status discriminatory and illegal. The ADA defines a disability as, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.”
Discrimination of disabled workers is illegal. If a company has 15 or more employees, they must comply with the ADA. However, any job applicant must meet the qualifications required of a job to be hired. A disabled applicant without the necessary job qualifications will be treated the same as a non-disabled applicant without the necessary job qualifications. In interviewing a disabled person, managers and HR reps should focus on the individuals match with the job qualifications and not the disability. In the event the disability is obvious (example: Lifeguard candidate that only has one leg), a potential employer may ask the applicant to describe how they would be able to perform specific job duties. When interviewing a disabled candidate, be sure to only ask job function related questions. It is okay for an interviewer to explain the process for an applicant to request accommodation, if it is needed.
Under the ADA, an employer may require that a disabled employee or job applicant undergo a medical test to determine the physical capability of the worker to complete their job-related functions. However, they may require this of the disabled workers, only if all non-disabled workers are also required. The Medical Testing is not allowed to happen prior to making a job offer, but it can be a condition placed on a job offer. Employers that that do this will need to keep their medical records entirely private with three exceptions:
- Managers and Supervisors can be informed of any work restrictions placed on the employee and what accommodations may be necessary.
- First aid and safety responders can be informed if they may be required for emergencies.
- Government officials investigating ADA compliance may view records.
Some perceived medical conditions are not considered to be covered under the ADA. Conditions such as Kleptomania, Pyromania, Compulsive Gambling, Psychotropic Flashbacks, and Illegal Drug Use is not protected under the ADA.
Disabled persons should be accommodated in the workplace so long as it does not cause any undue hardship to a company or organization. The accommodations may not cause a threat to workplace safety, or the health and well-being of themselves and others. Employers should allow applicants and employees to offer their own suggestions about how they can best be accommodated. Some examples of reasonable accommodations that could be requested might include:
- Providing larger print so text may be read by those that might be vision impaired.
- Changing work hours to allow for a medical treatment
- Adjusting the height of a desk or workstation.
- Providing keyboards or phones with larger buttons for those with poor hand-eye coordination
The employer does need to be made aware of the need for accommodation. They cannot accommodate for a disability if they have not been made aware, nor can they be held accountable in a court of law for not accommodating if it was not requested. Employers may offer less expensive alternatives to requested accommodations, if the request accommodation is deemed too expensive.
The ADA has made it possible for those handicapped/handicapable to be able to work with dignity and respect.
And remember all of you Human Resources professionals: Be Human... Be a Resource... Be a Resource for Humans.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes. Do not take what I am writing as advice. Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions. The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.