The ADA: A Primer for Employers in 2024

Beth Dean 05.07.24
Graphic - Blog 2024-05-07 The ADA A Primer for Employers in 2024

It’s time for an ADA refresher!

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a cornerstone of civil rights legislation, ensuring equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As an employer, understanding your obligations under the ADA is crucial. Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

What qualifies as a disability?

The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who has:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Included: seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning, and working.
  • A history of this impairment. Even if a person’s impairment is currently controlled or in remission, the ADA still protects them from discrimination based on that history.
  • A perception by others of having an impairment. This protects individuals who are wrongly perceived as having a disability, even if they don’t actually have one.

Though the ADA doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of covered disabilities, it generally covers physical disabilities, sensory impairments, and mental health conditions. 

The ADA generally doesn’t cover short-term illnesses or injuries. However, suppose a temporary condition substantially limits a major life activity for an extended period (weeks or months). In that case, it might be considered a disability under the ADA. 

Remember that the ADA focuses on the functional impact of an impairment, not the specific diagnosis.

What Does the ADA Cover?

The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including:

  • The hiring process: You can only ask disability-related questions during interviews if they are job-related and necessary to determine if an applicant can perform the job’s essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation.
  • Job accommodations: Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments to a job or the work environment that enable a person with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job. Examples include providing screen readers for visually impaired employees or adjustable desks for those with mobility limitations.
  • Benefits and leave: The ADA requires employers to offer health insurance and other benefits to qualified employees with disabilities on the same terms as employees without disabilities. It also protects the right of employees with disabilities to request reasonable leave for medical reasons.

Fulfilling Your Obligations

To foster a truly inclusive workplace, consider developing a comprehensive ADA policy in your employee handbook. This policy should clearly outline your company’s commitment to equal opportunity and non-discrimination for individuals with disabilities. It should also explain the process for employees to request reasonable accommodations, ensuring they understand their rights and how to access the support they need. 

Training your senior staff is equally important. Equip managers, supervisors, and HR personnel with knowledge of the ADA’s requirements. This training should cover how to identify potential accommodation needs and how to respond to employee requests properly. Remember, accessibility extends beyond physical barriers. 

Think about how to make communication methods inclusive for all employees. For example, inclusive communication could involve providing transcripts for video meetings or offering training materials in alternative formats, such as audiobooks or electronic documents. 

Resources for Employers

The ADA can seem complex, but many resources are available to help employers comply. Here are a few:

By understanding your obligations and taking proactive steps, you can create a welcoming and inclusive workplace for all employees.

Stay tuned – in our next post, we’ll tackle how to handle reasonable accommodations!

Also on Nextep

A new program impacting Minnesota employers called Paid Leave launches in January 2026. The program offers financial benefits to employees facing qualifying life events, requiring contributions from both employers and workers. This initiative aims to provide stability for employees during challenging times, potentially leading to a more engaged and productive workforce. What Does Paid Leave […]
Read more
Implementation Date: August 1, 2024 Summary Effective August 1, 2024, commissions, incentive pay, and bonuses are considered due in final wages in the state of Louisiana if they have been earned at the time of separation and have not been modified in accordance with a written policy addressing such payments. The amended law also specifies […]
Read more
Effective July 19, 2024, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard. This change improves the amount and quality of information on labels and safety data sheets (SDSs). The final rule aims to better inform employees about the chemicals they work with and improve workplace safety. Here’s a summary of […]
Read more
Several states and local jurisdictions will increase their minimum wage rates on July 1, 2024. Below is a summary of these changes and guidelines to help you comply with your minimum wage requirements.  As a reminder, when federal and state or local payroll laws differ, the employer must adhere to the law that benefits the […]
Read more
Get ready for changes! As of July 1, 2024, a new wave of state laws are set to go into effect across the country. These updates impact everything from worker protections and minimum wage to important regulations for businesses. Whether you’re an employer, employee, or simply a resident staying informed, this article will guide you […]
Read more
Exemptions from Overtime Pay: A Guide for Employers The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced significant changes to overtime regulations for salaried employees exempt from overtime pay. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and how to prepare: Key Changes: Increased Salary Thresholds: Currently, salaried workers earning more than $35,568 annually are exempt […]
Read more
A Game Changer for Employers The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently made a significant change regarding employers’ use of non-compete agreements. The final rule issued by the FTC prohibits the use of non-compete agreements for many workers, which is a departure from the longstanding practices of many companies. This decision is already facing legal challenges, […]
Read more
Key Points for Employers About the Latest Harassment Guidance The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently updated its guidelines on workplace harassment enforcement. This was the EEOC’s first update in more than 30 years. The updates are intended to clarify and modernize existing standards. These changes take into account recent legal developments and the […]
Read more
What You Need to Know About PWFA The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released the final regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). These regulations, taking effect on June 18, 2024, update the PWFA rules put into place in 2023 and significantly impact how employers with at least 15 employees accommodate workers with […]
Read more
When Addiction Strikes at Work The issue of addiction in the workplace presents a complex challenge for both employers and employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects qualified individuals with disabilities, but active addiction itself isn’t necessarily covered. Here’s a breakdown of rights and responsibilities: Employee Rights Under the ADA Generally Not Covered: The […]
Read more
What is Considered “Reasonable”? What happens when an employee with a disability needs an adjustment to perform their job effectively? This is where reasonable accommodations come in. However, the question often arises: what exactly is considered “reasonable” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Striking a Balance The key is to find a balance between […]
Read more
Forced to listen? Imagine this: Your boss calls a mandatory meeting. Instead of discussing work tasks, they spend the time telling you why you should support a political candidate or a particular religious view. That’s a captive audience meeting, and it’s becoming a hot-button issue. A captive audience meeting is a mandatory work meeting where […]
Read more

Download Our App


Download the Nextep Mobile App in Apple iOS or Google Play