Magazine article Personnel Journal

A Practical Guide to the Americans with Disabilities Act

Magazine article Personnel Journal

A Practical Guide to the Americans with Disabilities Act

Article excerpt

The employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) become effective on July 26, 1992, for many employers. This article is intended to provide practical guidance for compliance with ADA from the combined perspectives of the labor attorney and the industrial psychologist. The article addresses the legal requirements of the ADA, and points out the tasks required of employers in order to comply. It's designed to help employers identify and meet their obligations, and be prepared to defend their actions if challenged.

The ADA bars discrimination against qualified individuals who have disabilities in employment, public services, transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications and other services, in both public and private sectors. It also requires the identification of the essential functions of each job, and a reasonable accommodation to the disabilities of qualified individuals.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals who have disabilities in regard to all employment practices, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. This prohibition covers the entire employment process.

Thus, the principles discussed below should be incorporated into all relevant aspects of an employer's practices regarding individuals who have disabilities.

The following questions and responses will help assess your company's need to comply with ADA, and will provide practical guidance in that effort.

Q: When are you required to comply?

A: If you have 25 employees or more you must comply by July 26, 1992; if you have 15 to 24 employees you must comply by July 26, 1994.

Q: What is a disability?

A: "Disability" is broadly defined in any one of three ways:

1) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. (A physical or mental impairment will not constitute a "disability" under this first definition unless the impairment results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities.)

2) A record of such an impairment

3) Being regarded as having such an impairment. (Regarded as having a disability means that an individual whose disability isn't substantially limiting is nevertheless perceived as having a substantially limiting impairment; has an impairment that's only substantially limiting because of the attitudes of others toward the impairment; or has no impairment, yet is perceived by the employer or other covered entity as having a substantially limiting impairment.)

A physical or mental impairment is: "(a)ny physiological disorder, or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory (including speech organs); cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or...(a)ny mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities." (Substantially limited when viewed in light of the factors noted above, amounts to a significant restriction when compared with the abilities of the average person.)

Q: Who are "qualified individuals with disablities?"

A: "Qualified individuals with disabilities" are individuals who have a disability and meet the skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the position held or desired, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.

EEOC regulations provide a two-step analysis to determine who are "qualified individuals with disabilities."

Step one is satisfied if the individual possesses the prerequisites for the positon, i.e., possesses the appropriate educational background, employment experience, skills or licenses.

Step two is satisfied if the individual can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. …

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