Human Resources: Complying to the ADA

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in the United States. According to ADA, businesses can’t discriminate in employing individuals due to disclosure of a visible or invisible disability. If a disabled individual is the most qualified candidate, businesses must hire them and make reasonable accommodations.

Is your Human Resources Department up to speed on ADA law? Here’s a few commonly asked questions and answers.

What is a disability?

A disability is any diagnosed physical or mental disability that impedes a person’s ability to function. Examples of physical disabilities include individuals who use wheelchairs, and individuals with chronic medical conditions that impair some abilities. Mental disabilities include mental health conditions, such as depression, and intellectual and cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia or a developmental disability.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is one that is nonessential to the job. For example, job candidates in wheelchairs might need a ramp or elevator to get to their office, a work desk that fits their wheelchair, and a handicapped bathroom. If the candidate is applying to a desk job such as an administrative position, none of these accommodations are essential to the job, and HR must provide accommodation. On the other hand, if a job requires walking fast on rough terrain, such as a park ranger or construction worker, a candidate in a wheelchair most likely won’t be able to perform the major tasks of the job and won’t be hired.

How does HR abide by ADA and limit the company’s liability?

When an employee discloses a disability, move as quickly as possible to support the employee and fulfill the reasonable accommodations. Keep in mind that in order to receive accommodations under ADA, the employee must disclose their disability to the company. Document your delivery of accommodations. If you choose to terminate or not hire an employee with a disability for a non-discriminatory reason, create a paper trail explaining the reasons you chose another candidate or terminated the employee. 

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