Title I of the ADA guarantees that disabled individuals are provided with an equal employment opportunity. Title I applies to employers who employee 15 or more employees, state and local government employers, unions, and employment agencies. It requires employers to use nondiscriminatory practices in the areas of recruiting, hiring, promotion, training, payment, and other employment privileges.
Whom Does the ADA Cover?
Title I applies to individuals who are disabled. A person is disabled for ADA purposes if he has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; the individual has a record of an impairment; or the individual is regarded as having an impairment.
Mental or Physical Impairment
Examples of commonly recognized mental and physical impairments are: blindness, deafness, epilepsy, HIV infection, cardiac issues, and mental or psychological impairments such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
The impairment must affect major life activities such as: seeing, hearing, breathing, walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, and working.
Record of an Impairment
A person may be considered disabled for ADA purposes if he has a record of having an impairment.
Regarded as Having an Impairment
If an employer regards or treats an employee as having a disability, the ADA may consider that person disabled even if no disability exists.
What Protections Does the ADA Provide?
Title I restricts what questions a potential employer may ask of a disabled individual and governs the right of a disabled employee to seek a reasonable accommodation of his disability if no undue hardship would result
An employer must modify a work position or workplace to accommodate a disabled individual. This may be providing work schedules and worksites, allowing for unpaid leave, allowing the use of a medical assistive device (including a service animal), providing training and other written materials in an accessible format, providing a ramp or a wheel-chair accessible bathroom, providing interpreters or other personal assistance, or allowing the use of adaptive technology, among others.
A reasonable accommodation may not be required if it poses an undue hardship upon the employer. Whether undue hardship exists is determined upon a case-by-case basis. An employer wishing to show an undue hardship exists would have to provide evidence of the employer's overall financial resources, the cost and nature of the accommodation, and any impact the accommodation would have upon the business.
An employer is also not required to provide prosthetic or medical devices that can be used on and off the job, that removes or alters the functions of a position, that results in lower production or performance standards, or allow violations of an employer's conduct rules.
Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation
An employee may make a written or oral request for a reasonable accommodation. A representative, family member, or health professional may make a request on the individual's behalf. The employer and individual should then discuss the individual's needs and attempt to decide upon a reasonable accommodation.
If the disability is not obvious (such as a visual impairment or use of a wheelchair), the employer may ask for medical verification of the individual's disability and why the accommodation is necessary. The health professional is not required to disclose the medical diagnosis of the individual, but may simply say how the individual is limited and what accommodation is needed.
The ADA protects disabled employees from discrimination. An employee or potential employee may ask for a reasonable accommodation of his disability that allows the individual to perform the essential job functions of a position.