Complying with the ADA
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 07-25-2018 05:39 AM
Synopsis: 56 million Americans live with disabilities. This group contains a massive amount of talent With a little help, disabled Americans can contribute to the workplace and have a positive effect on the economy as a whole. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed into law with this in mind. Learn what you need to do to comply with this landmark legislation that has completely transformed the workplace.
As managers, we are forced to comply with a wide number of laws and regulations. It can be difficult to keep track of everything. Unfortunately, penalties for non-compliance with federal or state laws can be significant. Civil penalties may be up to $75,000 for the first violation and up to $150,000 for each subsequent violation.
While there is a large amount of federal legislation to understand, it is important to understand the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Before the passage of the ADA, disabled people in America were not protected by federal legislation. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, momentum gathered for at least some protections for disabled people, leading to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal programs and by the recipients of federal financial aid. However, this piece of legislation did not protect those disabled individuals from discrimination in other circumstances—namely in employment situations or public accommodations in the private sector. Those omissions were addressed in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law.
If required to sum it up in one sentence, the ADA can be described this way:
It ensures that those with disabilities have the same opportunities to participate in mainstream American life as those who are not disabled.
Naturally, there are several questions that flow from this statement.
The most obvious one is how the ADA classifies individuals as “disabled.” According to the legislation, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” a person who has “a record of such impairment,” or a person who is perceived by others as having a physical or mental impairment. The text of the legislation is quite lengthy and does not list each and every impairment that would constitute a disability under the law.
This guidance on “disability” essentially remained in its current form until 2008, when the federal government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”). Significantly, the ADAAA made some clarifications to the term “disability,” making it easier for individuals to prove that they are actually disabled. Essentially, it states that the definition of “disability” should be interpreted so that broad coverage could be extended to individuals. The ultimate goal was to set forth consistent, universal, and predictable standards in order to facilitate compliance with the ADA.
Beyond this discussion of “disability,” the ADA places requirements on state and local governments and private sector employers. As for employers, the law applies to employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of disability when related to things like job application procedures, hiring, advancement, or firing of employees, employee compensation, and job training. It also requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to qualified applicants or employees. By “reasonable accommodations,” the ADA aims to strike this balance of allowing disabled persons to do their jobs without causing the employer “undue hardship” (in other words, without too much difficulty or expense).
Because of these requirements, you and your organization may need to complete an audit of your ADA compliance. Specifically, it is important to examine whether there are any organizational procedures that can be construed as failing to provide “reasonable accommodations” to current employees or potential hires who claim a disability. For instance, if you use a computer-based application form to accept job application and a disabled job applicant cannot use a computer due to blindness or another disability, do you have an alternative way to accept job applications? Is your office accessible to handicapped employees or prospective hires? Thinking about these things now will decrease the chances that your organization is in non-compliance with the ADA.
Ultimately, the ADA is a lengthy and complicated statute. This article does not provide specific legal advice or a complete summary of your potential obligations under the ADA. Consequently, you will likely want to speak to your organization’s in-house counsel to ensure that your organization is complying with the ADA. If you’d like to learn more about the ADA and how your organization can comply, you can start by clicking here.