Rules on Disability Discrimination
Title I of the ADA applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. Such employers may not discriminate in hiring or employment against persons with disabilities, mental or physical. They must also provide a reasonable accommodation to known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
A qualified individual with a disability means a person who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job.
A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, or walking. The term also applies to someone with a record of impairment i.e. a history of cancer or alcoholism. Someone who is perceived or regarded as having a disability, such as a person disfigured in an accident, or someone with AIDS, is also protected under this statute.
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. The three categories of accommodations are modifications to the application process, modifications to the work environment or manner or circumstances of work, and modifications that allow an employee to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
Undue hardship in providing reasonable accommodation means significant difficulty or expense. undue hardship is determined on a case by case basis and refers not only to financial difficulty but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.
It is a defense to a charge of discrimination based on disability that the employee posed a "direct threat" to the health or safety of himself or others in the workplace. Direct threat means a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. The determination that an individual poses a direct threat should be made on an individual basis, assessing an individual's present ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job. It should be based on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective information, not on speculation or stereotypical thinking about certain disabilities. Factors to consider are: the duration of the risk; the nature and severity of the potential harm; the likelihood that the potential harm will occur; and the imminence of the potential harm.
The EEOC enforces the employment sections of the ADA. If you have questions about your rights under this statute, you can call the EEOC, or the Human Rights Commission, or you can click on to the EEOC website. Various other agencies enforce the other provisions, or can give you information.