What the ADA Means for Employed Persons with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) protects differently-abled workers and applicants from job discrimination. Under the law, persons with physical or mental impairments that substantially impact major life activities are protected from discriminatory labor practices. 

What is ADA?

Part of the ADA that outlaws job discrimination against qualified workers or applicants with a disability. However, it is a comprehensive act that also outlaws discriminatory practices against differently-abled individuals in public transportation, public accommodations. telecommunications, and local and state government services. 

The part of the law that prohibits work discrimination is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as well as civil rights enforcement agencies that coordinate with the commission at the local and state levels.

Another part of the ADA also prohibits discrimination in local and state government activities and programs, including discrimination by local and state governments regardless of the number of employees effective after January 26, 1992. This part of the law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

A short history of the ADA

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. As an equal opportunity lae, it is a comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation prohibiting blatant discrimination. It is meant to ensure that persons living with disabilities will have access to the same opportunities and level of participation in mainstream American life as everyone else. This means that they should have access to the same kind of employment opportunities, goods, services, and local and state government programs. 

Visit their page for more information on ADA regulations and standards.

Are you protected by the ADA?

The ADA protects individuals who have a record of, or have been regarded as having substantial physical or mental impairments as opposed to minor impairments. It defines a “substantial impairment” as one that substantially impacts or restricts major life activities like seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, learning, caring for oneself, working, or performing manual tasks. 

However, persons with disabilities must also be qualified to perform the essential duties of the role with or without reasonable accommodation to have protection from job or hiring discrimination. 

In order to be protected under the ADA, you must meet your employer’s job requirements and qualifications. These include relevant skills, job experience, educational background, certifications, and licenses. You should also be able to perform essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation. 

Under the ADA, essential functions pertain to fundamental duties that you are able to perform independently or with reasonable accommodation. This means that a potential employer can’t fire you or reject your application because you have a disability that prevents you from performing non-essential duties.

Reasonable accommodation refers to adjustments to the role or work environment that makes it possible for a qualified job candidate or employee living with a disability to freely participate in the application process, perform the essential functions of the role, and enjoy employment benefits equal to those enjoyed by workers without disabilities. 

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Job restructuring
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Providing work equipment and devices
  • Providing interpreters or readers 
  • Modifying the workplace to make it accessible and usable for persons living with disabilities
  • Adjusting job application exams and training materials

Employers are required by the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified workers or applicants unless they can demonstrate that making such an accommodation would involve significant difficulty or expenses on their part.

Which employers or industries does the ADA cover?

ADA covers the following employers and industries that discriminate against persons with disabilities:

  • Private employers
  • Employment agencies
  • Labor management committees
  • Local and state governments
  • Labor organizations

The EEOC helps enforce ADA against the following employers:

  • All private, local, and state employers with 25 employees or more after July 26, 1992
  • All private, local, and state employers with 15 employees or more after July 26, 1994

The EEOC and DOJ have overlapping responsibilities when it comes to enforcing certain parts of the ADA against local and state governmental employers. The two bodies coordinate Federal enforcement efforts to ensure efficiency during investigative and enforcement processes. 

Moreover, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 already covers certain private and governmental employers by affirmative and non-discrimination action requirements. The EEOC, DOJ, and Department of Labor will coordinate enforcement efforts under both the ADA and Rehabilitation Act.

Get legal counsel on disability discrimination

If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of a disability, talk to an employment attorney in San Diego. Hogue & Belong Attorneys at Law works with persons living with disabilities. Call them at 619.238.4720 or send a message to for legal advice.

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