Americans with Disabilities Act: What is it and What are My Rights?

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By Lori B. Painter, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions may not discriminate against a person who has a physical and or mental impairment. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified ADA applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. An employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation if it imposes an “undue hardship.”

Recruiters or interviewers must be trained with regard to inquiries which are permissible under the ADA. Under the ADA, an employer may not ask about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability and may not conduct medical examinations until after it makes a conditional job offer to the applicant. After making a job offer, an employer may require a medical examination or make disability-related inquiries if all entering employees are subject to the exam or inquiry.

If an examination or inquiry screens out an individual because of disability, the exclusionary criterion must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. The employer also must show that the criterion cannot be satisfied and the essential functions cannot be performed with reasonable accommodation. Employers are also permitted to conduct medical examination and make disability-related inquiries of employees, if such exams or inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Any medical information obtained must be kept confidential by the employer. This means that the employer must collect and maintain the information on separate forms and in separate medical files. The employer may disclose the information only to persons and entities specified in the ADA.

According to Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc.,employers may use any kind of test to determine job qualifications. However, qualification standards, tests, or other selection criteria that screen out an individual with a disability or a class of individuals with disabilities will violate the ADA unless shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Tests must be administered to an applicant or employee with a disability in a way that ensures that the test results accurately reflect the skills, aptitude, or whatever other factor is being tested, rather than reflecting the impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills of the person, unless these skills are what is being tested.

Remember, if working with your disability becomes too difficult or is physically too straining, you have the option to file for Social Security disability. Metzger Wickersham can help you through the disability approval process.

If you think you, or someone you know, has been discriminated against because of a disability, contact Metzger Wickersham. Call us at (888)-286-2850 or email us to schedule your free consultation today.