ADA Compliance: Minimizing Employment Litigation

By Goldman, Charles D. | Nation's Cities Weekly, August 3, 1992 | Go to article overview

ADA Compliance: Minimizing Employment Litigation

Goldman, Charles D., Nation's Cities Weekly

The best place to start implementing ADA compliance is with your own city employees. Some of your workforce may be disabled and certainly front line employees will come in contact with disabled citizens seeking city services. Provide sensitivity/awareness training to all front line municipal employees and supervisors about both the employment and service delivery implications of the ADA as it relates to their activities.

Teach your employees how to interact and communicate with persons with disabilities. Just as the terms "African American" and "persons of color" are acceptable when interacting with minorities, there is a language of disability. Avoid terms such as "crippled," "retarded," or "confined to a wheelchair." The term "handicapped," while found in certain laws, has been superseded in popular usage by the term "person with a disability."

If you speak someone's language and treat that person with dignity, they're less likely to sue you.

Determine whether your city has a commission of persons with disabilities or has frequent interaction with organizations that represent persons with disabilities. If you have an advisory commission, the members may be knowledgable about or have access to information that can assist your compliance efforts. For example, the disabled advocates may be able to assist your city with outreach and recruitment for employment, reasonable accommodation suggestions, or barrier removal training for assessing structural changes in city buildings.

If your city government does not have an existing commission, consider the establishment of an ADA advisory committee. It should be comprised of diverse groups of persons with disabilities, advocates for disabled persons, and community leaders. The Department of Justice strongly recommends that local governments seek input from persons with disabilities as they comply with the law.


In order to determine an applicant's qualifications, it's important to understand the job duties. It sounds like good personnel management, right? However, with the first ADA employment deadline now in effect, it now becomes necessary to achieve effective compliance with the employment provisions of the American with Disabilities Act. While ADA does not require a city to have a position description for each city job, check your state or local civil service or personnel laws, because they may. It is important to note that the ADA does provide that a position description prepared before a job is advertised or before interviewing applicants shall be considered evidence of the essential job functions (42 U.S.C. Section.12111(8)).

Begin by examining each position description. Ask the following types of questions: Is it accurate? Does it indicate what the incumbent of the job really does? Too often job descriptions lay fallow while the actual work done on the job changes. Old job descriptions that no longer reflect the job duties can come back to haunt you. Continue the practice of reviewing all position descriptions regularly.

The public notice provision requires local governments to indicate their compliance with the ADA. This means that when your notice states that as an equal employment employer, the city does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, national origin, etc., you must add "disability" to the list. Be sure to post and distribute public notices outlining your compliance. This is required under the act, just as it is under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12115).

Treat outreach recruiting for persons with disabilities in the same way the city outreaches for other protected classes, such as women and minorities. Identify organizations and groups that represent persons with disabilities to see if they can help you disseminate job announcements. Ask those groups with whom else should you outreach. …

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