ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act ADA

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Title I of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which became effective July 26, 1992, prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees*, state and local governments, employment agencies, and unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities, and Persons associated with a disabled personin application processes, hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, job training and other employment conditions and privileges.

A person with a disability is a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental disability that significantly limits one or more important life activities;
  • Has a record of such impairment; or
  • Considered such an impairment.

Major life activities include tasks such as taking care of yourself, performing manual tasks, seeing, listening, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending over, speaking, breathing, studying, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working and perform major bodily functions.

A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, is able to perform the essential functions of the job.

Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Make existing facilities used by employees easily accessible and usable for people with disabilities
  • Job reorganization, change of working hours, reassignment to a vacant position
  • Purchase or modification of equipment or devices
  • Adapting or modifying exams, training materials or guidelines and providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • Allow an employee to work remotely

An employer has an obligation to accommodate a qualified applicant or worker’s known disability if doing so would not cause “unreasonable hardship” in the operation of the employer’s business.

Unfair Hardship is defined as an act that requires significant difficulty or expense when factors such as the nature and cost of housing, the size of an employer, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operations are taken into account.

An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to provide housing, nor is an employer required to provide personal effects such as glasses or hearing aids.

If a food-handling worker has a contagious disease and reasonable precautions cannot eliminate the risk of transmission, the employer may refuse assignment.

Additionally, the ADA does not prohibit a religious employer from favoring individuals of a particular religion.

The interactive process

In general, an employer is not required to provide reasonable accommodation unless requested by a person with a disability.

If an employer believes that a medical condition is causing a performance or behavior problem, the employer may ask the employee how the problem can be resolved and whether the employee needs reasonable accommodation.

Once a reasonable accommodation request is made, the employer and the individual should discuss the individual’s needs and determine the reasonable reasonable accommodation – this is a legal obligation for both the employer and the employee, known as the ‘interactive process’.

If more than one placement would be possible, the employer may choose the one that is cheaper or easier to provide.

Medical examinations, inquiries

employer may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature or severity of any disability. However, applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions.

A job offer can be made dependent on the results a physical examinationbut only if the test is required for all entering workers in similar occupations.

Medical examinations of employees must be job-related and compatible with the business needs of the employer.

Medical information and records are confidential. However, medical information may be shared with supervisors regarding necessary accommodations, security personnel for emergency treatment, and government officials investigating ADA compliance.

drug and alcohol abuse

Employees and applicants currently engaged in illicit drug use are not qualified persons under the ADA. However, persons who no longer use drugs are considered qualified persons if they are enrolled in or have completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program.

Testing for illegal drugs is not subject to ADA medical screening restrictions. However, drug and alcohol tests can be carried out additional state and federal restrictions.

Employers are allowed to hold illegal drug users and alcoholics to the same performance standards as other employees.

EEOC Enforcement

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued regulations on July 26, 1991 to enforce the provisions of Title I of the ADA.

The regulations originally came into force on July 26, 1992 and affected employers with 25 or more employees.

On July 26, 1994, the threshold was lowered to employers with 15 or more employees.

In addition, employers must publish these provisions in an accessible format. A fine will be imposed for non-compliance.

For more information and guidance, see:


Source: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Fact Sheet on the ADA

*The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act also protects against all forms of discrimination, including disability. It is important to note that as of October 1, 2022, CFEPA will cover any employer with one or more employees.

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