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!

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