What Are Employers’ Duties Under the ADA?


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has various requirements for employers with respect to individuals with disabilities. Under Title I, employers with 15 employees or more are prohibited from discriminating against anyone with a disability, and that encompasses a number of duties.

No Discrimination Against Disabled Individuals

The ADA prohibits discrimination by employers against disabled individuals. What this means in practice is that employers must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities during recruiting, hiring, firing, promoting, etc.

It’s worth noting, of course, that an employee must be able to perform essential job functions with or without accommodations in order to be protected by the ADA. As such, the law doesn’t prevent employers from hiring the most qualified individual for a job.

Providing Reasonable Accommodations

For employees and other individuals who are disabled, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to allow them to work. These accommodations include any changes made to a work environment or job that allow someone protected by the ADA to participate in the application process, perform essential job functions, or enjoy the benefits of employment.

Some reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Improving accessibility in the workplace
  • Modifying equipment or devices
  • Acquiring special equipment
  • Restructuring jobs
  • Reassignment
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Providing interpreters or readers
  • Making adjustments to tests, policies, and examinations

Failing to make reasonable accommodations for those who have disabilities is a violation of the ADA, and could expose the employer to liability.

Exception – Undue Hardship

It’s important to note that the operative word in “reasonable accommodations” is “reasonable.” It is not expected for employers to take on undue hardship in order to accommodate individuals protected by the ADA. If certain accommodations would unduly disrupt operations or be too expensive, the employer is not required to implement them.

That said, if certain accommodations wouldn’t be feasible, the employer should seek alternative methods for accommodating people covered by the ADA. For instance, an employer may seek help from outside resources, and they may even give the employee the opportunity to provide accommodations themselves.

If no such alternative methods can be found, then the employer is justified in not providing accommodations.

Asking About Disabilities

Finally, it is unlawful for an employer to ask job applicants about their disabilities. All interview questions should be framed in terms of what the applicant is capable of doing, including asking them how they would perform essential job functions. After hiring, asking about disabilities is only permitted when it is necessary to conduct business.

Medical examinations to verify disabilities are also not permitted as part of the application process, and any results of examinations performed after hiring must be kept confidential.

Fulfilling Your Duties as an Employer

The ADA is just one set of regulations that govern how employers should treat their employees. There are many other laws that are designed to protect the rights of employees, and it’s vital to maintain strict compliance with all of them.

When creating policies and practices for ADA compliance, you’ll benefit from the guidance of legal counsel. Hart David Carson LLP can provide legal guidance that can help you adhere to ADA guidelines as well as other employment laws. For a consultation, contact us today.

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