Who Is Protected?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was designed to keep people with disabilities from being discriminated against, both in the workplace and in general, as far as businesses being accessible to them. The penalty for all public businesses with 15 or more full-time employees, currently the only major stipulation, is steep, with fines potentially in the tens of thousands and probable litigation for the incentive to comply. Under the existing law, if you are on record as having a physical or mental disability that significantly (as opposed to mildly) limits you from performing a major life activity (i.e. hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, walking, caring for oneself, learning or working), or if your employer believes you have a disability, even if you do not. If you fall into this description, you are already protected by the ADA, and do not have to apply for it. Incidentally, the law also covers anyone who is discriminated against because of their relationship (or association with) a disabled person. So if you have a disability but are still able and qualified to do a job, with or without a reasonable accommodation, you are protected by the ADA. First you must meet 2 criteria:
- You must meet the employer's standard requirements for the position, for example education, skills, experience, licenses, etc.
- You must be able to perform the essential tasks of the job, with or without a "reasonable accommodation". Essential tasks are the primary functions of the job, which you must be able to perform on your own or with a reasonable accommodation.
OK, so what is considered a "reasonable accommodation"? (I mean really, the wording on some of this appears almost intentionally vague, but that's a government document for you!) Here are some examples listed on the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) government department's website, of reasonable accommodations:
- providing or modifying equipment or devices
- job restructuring
- part-time or modified work schedules
- reassignment to a vacant position
- adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies
- providing readers and interpreters
- making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities
That seems to just about cover everything! Some of these accommodations are alreadyrequired by the law, such as the accessibility alterations to make the facility in general, "readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities". To summarize, if you are qualified and able to perform the job duties described (basically like any job applicant), don't let your disability stop you from trying. Even the job application and hiring process must be equally accessible and unbiased for disabled individuals. If it isn't, for some reason, be sure to report the incident! The DOJ (Department of Justice) and the EEOC coordinate their efforts to handle these types of claims, but currently have significant waiting periods, so don't wait, report the incident(s) right when they happen.
*Information on where to report etc. can be found at the foot of this article.
You Have Protected Rights
- job assignments
- lay off
- all other employment related activities
In addition, you cannot be fired or retaliated against for exercising or asserting your ADA rights at the workplace. Your employer or potential employer is not allowed to even ask you questions regarding your disability, or require you to take a medical examination, unless they require one after a job offer, as a noted requirement for anyone hired to that position. However, in this case, they still cannot reject you for the position due to any medical information about your disability that would be revealed in that medical examination, unless the information revealed deemed you unable to perform the essential tasks of the job. Therefore, if you know you are qualified for the position, and you are confident you can perform the essential duties either with, or without, a reasonable accommodation, don't let your disability stop you! Go apply for that job, and if you have any problems whatsoever, contact your local EEOC branch for help. (See information below.)
(800) 669-4000 (Voice)
(800) 669-6820 (TDD)
If you are within the Washington, D.C. 202 area code, call:
(202) 663-4900 (voice) or:
(202) 663-4494 (TDD)