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Home > Resources > PAF Publications > PAF Guides & Major Publications > First My Illness... > Understanding ADA & FMLA > Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act

Disability —under the "Definitions" sec.12102. (section 3) of the ADA, disability is defined as, with respect to an individual; A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; A record of such an impairment; or Being regarded as having such an impairment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act presents many novel challenges for both an employee and employers.

It is important to understand before bringing a claim under the ADA act and other disability discrimination statutes that employees often may have to forego rights and benefits under other laws. The reason is because these other laws such as Social Security Disability require that an employee must be totally disabled. As will be explained in this pamphlet under this Section, you cannot be totally disabled in order to qualify as a disabled person under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disability has different meanings for other organizations such as the Social Security Administration and other health insurance companies. Please see the plan documentation for your insurance company for their definition of disability. The Social Security Administration has it’s own criteria for determining disability, please contact your local Social Security office for more information.

Discrimination —Discriminatory Under Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:
  • Hiring and Firing;
  • Compensation, assignment, or classification of employees;
  • Transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall;
  • Job advertisements;
  • Recruitment;
  • Testing; Use of company facilities;
  • Training and apprenticeship programs;
  • Fringe benefits

Practices under these laws also include:
  • Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age;
  • Retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
  • Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities; and denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.
  • Employers are required to post notices to all employees advising them of their rights under the laws EEOC enforces and their right to be free from retaliation. These notices must be accessible, as needed, to persons with visual or other disabilities that affect reading. Title VII and the ADA cover all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. These laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees that control apprenticeship and training.

The ADEA covers all private employers with 20 or more employees, state and local
governments (including school districts), employment agencies and labor organizations.

Understand what the ADA means by "Reasonable Accommodations"
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer with 15 or more
employees to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, unless it would cause undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way a job is performed that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. There are three categories of "reasonable accommodations":
  • Changes to the job application process.
  • Changes to the work environment or the way a job is usually completed.
  • Changes that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
    • "Undue Hardship" would be changes to the work environment that would include significant difficulty and/ or expense. Undue hardship also refers to accommodations that would be disruptive or that would alter the nature of the business. Each case of "reasonable accommodation" or employers’ charge of "undue hardship" would be handled on a case by case basis.

Reasonable accommodations include but are not limited to the following examples:
  • Shifting minor job responsibilities to other employees
  • Unpaid leave time that does not present undue hard-ship
  • Modified or part time scheduling
  • Reassignment to a new position that you are qualified for
  • Making the workplace accessible and usable for people with disabilities

Key things to consider when requesting a reasonable accommodation:
  • Qualification for a new position or ability to still perform previous position.
  • The employer is not required to eliminate primary job responsibilities.
  • The employer is not required to provide personal use items like wheelchairs or prosthetic devices.
  • The employer is not required to modify a work schedule if it hinders the productivity of other employees and if it causes undue hardship.
  • The employer can deny a leave request when no approximate return date is given so that they may either plan for your return or get a replacement, which would involve undue hardship.