Like most Americans, people living with chronic disabilities know that their best physical and mental health is often easiest to maintain when they’re doing meaningful work. Yet despite their strong work ethic – many of the disabled must still combat negative stereotypes that often don’t match the excellent work they do.
Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) made it illegal for employers to discriminate against job applicants with known disabilities. The ADA applies to all employers with 15 or more employees and to all state and local government employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces all the provisions of the ADA.
Once employers become aware of the untapped talents and skills of the disabled, they still hesitate to hire people because they’re concerned about the “reasonable accommodations” they may need to make to help disabled workers function at their full capacity. However, most of the time, the special requests made by the disabled are relatively simple to handle.
Here’s a brief look at some of the questions employers often ask about properly honoring all the ADA’s provisions in the workplace.
Frequently asked questions concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act
Q: What exactly constitutes a “disability” under this law?
A: A job applicant’s disability is normally covered by the ADA if it involves a mental or physical impairment that substantially interferes with (or limits) an individual’s ability to handle a major activity like work.
Q: Can my company require a job applicant to undergo a medical exam before extending a job offer?
A: Generally, no. However, you can make a job offer that’s conditional, based on a satisfactory result of a post-offer medical exam (or inquiry) that’s required of all new employees entering in the same job category. Under certain circumstances, always best discussed in advance with your Houston employment law attorney, you can ask an applicant who has disclosed that s/he has a disability to either demonstrate the ability to perform the job’s required tasks – or at least describe how s/he will handle them due to the disability.
Q: What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation?”
A: Employers sometimes need to adjust or modify certain aspects of the job application process and how a job is performed so that a disabled person can readily enjoy the same rights and privileges extended to others without disabilities.
Q: Do we have to grant preference to a disabled applicant over someone who is not disabled?
A: No. One of the clearest examples provided by one source refers to a job where the employees may need to type rather fast. If the disabled job applicant’s best typing score (after being provided with appropriate testing accommodations) is only 50 wpm and a non-disabled applicant can type 75 wpm, the employer is completely free to hire the faster typist. Again, this holds true if fast typing skills are crucial to the job;
Q: Can you provide concrete examples of reasonable accommodations that employers might need to provide?
A: Yes. A sample list follows.
Please feel free to contact one of our Murray Lobb attorneys so we can assist you as you try to conform with all the ADA’s provisions – while also creating a pleasant job atmosphere for all your employees.
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