Americans With Disabilities Act

Americans With Disabilities Act

  • Effective July '92 for employers of 25 or more
  • Effective July '94 for employers of 15 or more


Builds on protections of Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Civil Rights Act of 1964

Definition of a Disability

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life systems or life activities.

Operative Language

"No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of an employee, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment."

Who Is Covered

  • Person with a record (history) of a physical/mental impairment

  • Person "regarded" as having an impairment or suspected of being disabled

  • Person "known to associate" with a person with a disability (roommate, caregiver, advocate, partner)

Qualified Individual With a Disability

One who, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job.

How Essential Functions Are Defined

  • By the written job description

  • By the tasks performed by previous occupants of the position

  • By the centrality or importance of some functions compared with other functions

  • By the consequences of the functions not being performed

Reasonable Accommodations

  • Negotiated when the employee's physician submits a written request, which is not required to state the underlying diagnosis, but must state the employee's functional limitations.

  • Intent: to allow the employee to continue to fulfill the essential functions of the job.

  • Intent: to allow equal access to the workplace for all qualified employees, including those with disabilities.

  • Options include job restructuring, part-time or modified schedule, reassignment to a vacant position, acquiring devices or modifying equipment. The ADA does not limit the options for reasonable accommodation.

  • Employers are not required to accommodate the unreasonable fears of co-workers who do not want to work beside a person with a disability, including HIV infection or AIDS.

Undue Hardship

Significant difficulty or expense beyond the employer's reasonable means.

Functional Limitations

Example: the employee is not able to lift more than ten pounds. Limitation does not state the underlying diagnosis (hernia? HIV?), but does clearly state to the employer the functional limitations on the person's activities because of the disability.


Whether or not the employee has disclosed, an employee's medical information remains confidential in the workplace. If co-workers are asked to take on tasks as part of a disabled employee's reasonable accommodation, they cannot be told the diagnosis. They can be told that the changes in assignment result from the reasonable accommodation of a co-worker's disability.