The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment. The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, and has since been amended to strengthen its protections for individuals with disabilities.
What is the ADA?
The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Key Aspects of the ADA in Employment Law
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, training, and compensation.
- Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to enable them to perform the essential functions of their job, unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.
- Employers are prohibited from retaliating against individuals who assert their rights under the ADA or who file a complaint of discrimination.
- Employers are required to make their facilities and communications accessible to individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.
Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments to the work environment or the way work is performed that enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their job. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf employee during meetings or training sessions.
- Providing a reasonable amount of additional time to complete tasks for an employee with a learning disability.
- Modifying the height of a desk for an employee in a wheelchair.
Employers are required to engage in an interactive process with employees with disabilities to determine what reasonable accommodations are necessary to enable them to perform the essential functions of their job. This process may include obtaining medical documentation of the disability and consulting with the employee and any necessary experts to identify possible accommodations.
Employers are not required to provide reasonable accommodations that would cause undue hardship to the employer. Undue hardship is defined as an action that is excessively costly, extensive, disruptive, or fundamentally alters the nature of the employer’s business. The employer has the burden of proof to demonstrate that providing the requested accommodation would cause undue hardship.
The ADA is a crucial piece of legislation that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all areas of public life, including employment. Employers must comply with the ADA’s requirements to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities and to make their facilities and communications accessible. The ADA has greatly improved the lives of individuals with disabilities and has helped to promote a more inclusive and diverse workforce.