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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


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FAQs: Business/Employers

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination and provides for equal access and opportunity. Former President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.

The ADA applies to situations in these five areas:

  1. Employment [Title I]
  2. State and local government [Title II]
  3. Public accommodations (private businesses) [Title III]
  4. Telecommunications [Title IV]
  5. Transportation and miscellaneous provisions [Title V]

Definition of Disability under the ADA

The ADA prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability. Specifically, the ADA protects three categories of individuals:

  1. Individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
  2. Individuals who have a record of a physical or mental impairment.
  3. Individuals who are regarded as having an impairment, whether they have an impairment or not.

The ADA does not include a list of covered disabilities under the law. Therefore, to determine if you are covered under the law, you need to determine if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

The definition of disability does not include simple physical characteristics, common personality traits, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages.

The ADA also excludes coverage for individuals who currently use illegal drugs, certain sexual disorders and preferences, and compulsive gambling, kleptomania, and pyromania.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions on ADA National Network

What is the ADA National Network?

The ADA National Network consists of ten (10) regional centers funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under the U.S. Department of Education.

The ADA National Network (formerly known as DBTAC - Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center) is the leader in providing information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet your needs. Its mission is to:

  • Facilitate voluntary compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
  • Conduct research to reduce and eliminate barriers to employment and economic self-sufficiency and to increase the civic and social participation of Americans with disabilities

What services does the ADA National Network provide?

The ADA National Network consists of ten (10) regional centers and is the leader in providing information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels. Each regional ADA Center offers the following core services:

  • Technical Assistance:Highly trained specialists are available to answer your questions about the ADA, including advice and information on what is required, who is covered, and how to work through ADA-related questions.Call the national toll free hotline at 1-800-949-4232 [voice/tty]. All calls are strictly confidential.

  • Education and Training: Provide customized training and distance education opportunities (i.e. Webcourses, Webinars, Podcasts, and National ADA Initiatives) about the ADA and disability-related laws to disability organizations, State and local government agencies, and private businesses.

  • Materials Dissemination: Distribute publications with accurate information about the ADA. Provide up-to-date ADA information via websites, social media, email, discussion lists, newsletters, and printed materials.

  • Information and Referral: Provide referrals to local organizations for advocacy assistance or issues outside of our work scope.

  • Public Awareness: Promote the ADA in a positive manner in media outlets.

  • Local Capacity Building: Work closely with business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to assist with ADA efforts in your State and local communities.

How do I contact the ADA National Network?

If you have questions, need resources or want training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contact your ADA Center for information, guidance, events, and various materials and online tools to make your efforts easier, as well as help you brainstorm and develop solutions for your customers.

  • Call National Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-4ADA [voice/tty] (1-800-949-4232)
    or complete the Questions and Help on the ADA [online form].

    All calls and contacts are strictly confidential. Highly trained specialists who have over 20 years of experience are available to answer your questions about the ADA, including advice and information on what is required, who is covered, and how to work through ADA-related questions.

  • Training on the ADA
    Find various Events & Educational Materials, including FAQs on the ADA and National ADA Initiatives to learn about the ADA and disability-related topics.

    Experienced staff and training specialists are available to help you design and/or conduct a customized workshop or presentation for your target audiences. Contact your ADA Center or call the National Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-4232 [voice/tty].

  • Visit website: ADA National Network

Southeast ADA Center

Business/Employers & the ADA

Who must comply with the Title I employment provisions of the ADA?

Private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, and joint labor-management committees must comply with Title I of the ADA. The ADA calls these "covered entities." The term employer includes persons who are "agents" of the employer, such as managers, supervisors, and foremen, or others who act for the employer, such as temporary employment agencies and agencies used to conduct background checks on candidates. Therefore, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the actions of these agents do not violate the ADA Private employers with 15 or more employees, including part-time employees, working for them for 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, must comply with the ADA.

State and local governments, regardless of the number of employees, are covered by the employment nondiscrimination requirements under Title II of the ADA.

Are there any special compliance situations under Title I of the ADA?

  1. Religious organizations are covered by Title I of the ADA, but they may give employment preference to people of their own religion or religious organization.

    Example: A church organization could require that its employees be members of its religion. However, it could not discriminate in employment on the basis of disability against members of its religion.

  2. The Legislative Branch of the U.S. government is covered by the ADA, but it is governed by different enforcement procedures established by Congress for its employees.
  3. Certain individuals appointed by elected officials of State and local governments also are covered by the special enforcement procedures established for Congressional employees.
  4. When several small employers (each with fewer that 15 employees but together employing a total of 15 or more) function as one integrated enterprise, they are covered by Title I.

Who is Exempt from Title I of the ADA?

  • Private employers with fewer than 15 employees unless several small employers (each with fewer that 15 employees but together employing a total of 15 or more) function as one integrated enterprise.
  • Corporations fully owned by the U.S. Government, Indian tribes, and bona fide private membership clubs that are not labor organizations and are exempt from taxation under the Internal Revenue Code.
  • U.S. Government executive agencies are exempt from the ADA, but these agencies are covered by similar nondiscrimination requirements and additional affirmative employment requirements under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • The ADA provides an exemption from coverage for any action in ADA compliance that would violate the law of the foreign country where a workplace is located.

What Employment Practices are covered under Title I?

The ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate in all employment practices such as: recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, lay-off, pay, firing, job assignments, benefits, leave and all other employment-related activities.

What are my responsibilities as an employer under Title I?

Covered employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified persons with disabilities so they may have an employment opportunity equal to that available to individuals without disabilities.

In order to be protected by the ADA, an individual with a disability must be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job; these are the basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform with or without reasonable accommodation. Collectively, this means that the applicant or employee must:

  • Satisfy your job requirements for educational background, employment experience, skills, licenses, and any other qualification standards that are job related; and
  • Be able to perform those tasks that are essential to the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.

It is a violation of the ADA to fail to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of your business.

Employers are not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation, nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.

The ADA does not interfere with your right to hire the best qualified applicant. Nor does the ADA impose any affirmative action obligations. The ADA simply prohibits you from discriminating against a qualified applicant or employee because of her or his disability.

In identifying an essential function to determine if an individual with a disability is qualified, you should focus on the purpose of the function and the result to be accomplished, rather than the manner in which the function presently is performed.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job, an employment practice, or the work environment that makes it possible for an individual with a disability to have an equal employment opportunity. Reasonable accommodation allows an individual to overcome a barrier in the work environment that will allow the individual with a disability to function effectively as an employee or as a potential employee.

Examples of reasonable accommodation include, but are not limited to:

  • Removing deep pile carpeting in a work area (or placing a usable surface over the carpet) so an individual can propel a manual wheelchair.
  • Reassigning an employee who loses her sight to a vacant position that does not require driving.
  • Permitting use of accrued paid leave or unpaid leave for necessary treatment.
  • Providing reserved parking for a person with a mobility impairment.
  • Providing a dolly or hand-truck to move materials from one spot to another, instead of lifting.
  • Obtaining or modifying equipment or devices.
  • Modifying examinations, training materials or policies.
  • Providing qualified readers and interpreters.

More FAQs

  1. What obligations does an employer have if an employee discloses his or her HIV status?

  2. What is a reasonable accommodation for a person with HIV?

  3. To what extent does the ADA require that Internet web pages be accessible to people with visual disabilities?

  4. What is the relationship between requirements of the FMLA, the ADA, and Title VII?

  5. Are all employees who are protected by Title VII or the ADA also entitled to leave under the FMLA?

  6. Is there a conflict between the FMLA provision allowing employers to ask for certification that an employee have a serious health condition and ADA restrictions on disability-related inquiries of employees?

  7. Does title II of the ADA prohibit public schools from conducting drug and alcohol testing of students or employees?

  8. Does the ADA cover the Federal government?

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