Americans with Disabilities Act - FAQ
1. Who is a "Qualified Individual with a Disability"?
Answer: A Qualified Individual with a Disability" is a person who possesses the education, skills, experience and other requirements of the employment position that he/she holds, or is applying for, and can perform the "essential functions" of the job with or without "reasonable accommodation".
2. What is a "reasonable accommodation"?
Answer: A "reasonable accommodation" is a change to a job or work site that lets a qualified applicant or employee with a disability participate in the application process or perform the essential functions of the position.
3. What are the limitations on the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation?
Answer: The disabled person requiring the accommodation must be qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer. Additionally, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. "Undue hardship" is defined as "an action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in the light of a number of factors such as the nature and cost of the accommodation in relationship to the size, overall resources, nature and structure of the employer's operation. When the facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger organization would be considered as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization. In general, a larger employer would be expected to make accommodations requiring a greater effort or expense than would be required of a smaller employer.
4. May an employer ask if a prospective employee is disabled?
Answer: An employer may not make a pre-employment inquiry either on an application form or in an interview as to whether, or to what extent, an individual is disabled. The employer may ask a job applicant whether he/she can perform particular job functions. If the applicant has a disability known to the employer, the employer may ask how he/she can perform job functions that the employer considers difficult or impossible to perform because of the disability, and whether an accommodation would be needed.
A job offer may be conditional based on the results of a medical examination, provided the exam is required for all entering employees in the same job category, regardless of disability. The information obtained must be handled according to rules of confidentiality specified in the ADA. After a person starts employment, all medical exams and inquiries must then be job related and necessary for the conduct of the employer's business. The provisions of the law are intended to prevent the employer from basing hiring and employment decisions on unfounded assumptions about the effects of a person’s limitations or disability.
5. Who is protected by the ADA?
Answer: Any individual who meets the definition of disability as defined in the ADA:
Has a physical or mental impairment which limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, learning, hearing, etc.) OR
Has a record or history of having had such an impairment, OR
Who is seen or regarded as having such an impairment.
6. What is a "disability related question"?
Answer: A disability related question is a question that is likely to elicit information about the presence of a disability. Inquiring about an applicant’s Workers' compensation history or job related inquiries at the pre-offer stage is not allowed. These questions relate to the existence and severity of an applicant’s impairments and are likely to elicit information about a disability.
Additionally, asking about the use of legal drugs or asking what medications you are using at the pre offer stage are likely to elicit information about a disability and are therefore not allowed.
7. May an employer ask applicants if they will need a reasonable accommodation to perform the functions of the job?
Answer: In general, an employer may not ask questions on an application or in an interview about whether an applicant will need reasonable accommodation for a job because these questions are likely to elicit whether the applicant has a disability. It is generally understood that only people with disabilities will need a reasonable accommodation.
However, when an employer could reasonably believe that an applicant would need reasonable accommodation to perform the function of the job, the employer can ask the applicant certain limited questions. Specifically the employer may ask whether she/he needs reasonable accommodation and what type of reasonable accommodation would be needed to perform the functions of the job if the employer reasonably believes the applicant will need reasonable accommodation because of an obvious disability, because of a hidden disability that the applicant has voluntarily disclosed to the employer, or because an applicant has voluntarily disclosed to the employer that they need reasonable accommodation to perform the job.
8. Can an employer ask an applicant if they can meet the attendance requirements of the position they are applying for?
Answer: Yes, an employer may state its attendance requirements and ask whether an applicant can meet them. An employer can also ask about an applicant’s prior attendance record: for example, how many days the applicant was absent from his/her last job. These questions are not likely to elicit information about a disability because there are many reasons, unrelated to a disability, why someone cannot meet attendance requirements or was frequently absent from a pervious job for example, the applicant may have had transportation or day-care problems.
An employer may not ask how many days the applicant was out sick at the applicant stage because these questions relate directly to the severity of an individual’s impairment, therefore, these questions are likely to elicit information about a disability.
9. What is a medical examination?
Answer: A medical examination is a procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health. At the pre-offer stage, an employer cannot require examinations that seek information about physical or mental impairments or health or inquire about an applicant’s workers’ compensation history.
10. May an employer require an applicant to take physical agility tests?
Answer: Yes, a physical agility test is a test where the applicant demonstrates the ability to perform actual or simulated job tasks; it is not a medical exam. Physical agility tests, if used, must be given to all applicants applying for that position. If a physical agility test screens out an applicant on the basis of a disability, the employer must be prepared to demonstrate that the test is job related and consistent with business necessity.
11. What is discrimination based on "association or relationship" to a person with a disability?
Answer: The ADA prohibits discrimination based on relationship or association in order to protect individuals from actions based on unfounded assumptions that their relationships to a person with a disability would affect their job performance and from actions caused by bias or misinformation concerning certain disabilities. For example, this provision would protect a person with a disabled spouse from being denied employment because of an employer's unfounded assumption that the applicant would use excessive leave to care for the spouse.
12. Does the ADA take safety issues into account?
Answer: Yes, the ADA permits employers to establish qualification standards that will exclude individuals who would pose a "direct threat" (a significant risk of substantial harm to the health and safety of the individual or to others). The employer must consider if the risk can be lowered to an acceptable level or eliminated by providing a reasonable accommodation.
An employer cannot assume that a risk exists but must establish through objective, medically supported methods that there is a genuine risk that substantial harm could occur in the work place. By requiring employers to make individualized judgments based on reliable medical or other objective evidence rather than on generalizations, ignorance, fear, patronizing attitudes or stereotypes, the ADA recognizes the need to balance the interest of people with disabilities against the legitimate interest of employers in maintaining a safe work environment.
13. What practices & activities are covered by Title I - Employment of the ADA?
Answer: The ADA prohibits discrimination in all areas of employment including job application procedures, hiring, firing, promotion, employee compensation, training, education, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, layoff, leave, fringe benefits and all other employment related activities.