The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability. In the employment context, disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats a “qualified individual” with a disability unfavorably because he or she has a disability.
To Which Work Situations Does Disability Discrimination Apply?
The ADA prohibits disability discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
Which Employers Are Prohibited from Disability Discrimination?
The ADA applies to businesses that have 15 or more employees who worked for the company for at least twenty calendar weeks (this year or last).
What Is the Definition of a Disability?
To be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and show he or she has one of the following:
- A physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (e.g., walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning);
- A history of a disability (e.g., cancer that is in remission);
- A physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he or she does not have such an impairment).
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or applicant with a disability, unless providing the accommodation would cause an undue hardship for the employer. A reasonable accommodation is a change in the work environment to help a person apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.
The employer and employee must engage in an “interactive process” to determine what accommodation is best. An employer is not required to provide the exact accommodation the employee requests, and if more than one accommodation would be appropriate, the employer may choose which one to provide.
What Is an Undue Hardship?
An undue hardship exists when the appropriate accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer’s size, financial resources, and the business’s needs. Many accommodations will cost something to provide, but to refuse the accommodation the cost must be burdensome for the employer.
What Is an Employer Allowed to Ask of People with Disabilities?
An employer may not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions or take a medical exam before extending a job offer. An employer also may not ask if an applicant has a disability or ask about the nature of an obvious disability. It is okay to ask whether an applicant can perform the job and how they would perform it, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Once an applicant receives a job offer, an employer may condition the offer on answering medical questions or passing a medical exam, but only if all new employees in the same type of job are required to do the same.
Once a person is hired, an employer generally can ask only medical questions or require a medical exam if the employer needs medical documentation to support an employee’s request for an accommodation, or if the employer believes an employee isn’t able to perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical condition.
The ADA also prohibits harassment based on a disability. It is illegal for anyone involved with the employment–a supervisor, manager, co-worker, or even a customer–to harass a person who has a disability, used to have a disability, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor.
Prohibited harassment does not include simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t serious; the harassment must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision.
DOES NEVADA LAW ALSO PROHIBIT Disability DISCRIMINATION?
Yes, Nevada law has very similar prohibitions against discrimination based on a disability.
What Can I Do if My Employer Discriminates Against Me Based on a Disability?
To learn about what action you can take, go here.
- What’s the Best Way to Request a Reasonable Accommodation from Your Employer?
- Reasonable Accommodation Requests: What Is the “Interactive Process”?