Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
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Employer Law FAQ

What Do Employers Need to Know about the ADA?

There are a number of legal requirements and prohibitions an employer must take into consideration when evaluating a job applicant and extending an offer of employment, as well as throughout the course of the employee's career. When an applicant or an employee has a disability, an employer also must comply with federal and state statutes designed to protect disabled individuals in the workplace. Two of the major areas where an employer must be cognizant of the rights of disabled individuals are the hiring process and the provision of reasonable accommodations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not meant to restrict an employer's ability to hire the person most qualified for a specific position. Rather, the ADA prohibits employers from not hiring an otherwise qualified job applicant because he or she has a disability. Likewise, this does not mean the employer must hire a disabled applicant over other applicants just because of the disability. The employer still may hire the applicant most qualified for the job.

  • "Qualified" is defined under the Act as one who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.
  • The essential functions are the basic job duties that an individual must be able to complete in order to fulfill the requirements of the job. Employers should include the essential functions of specific positions in any advertisements and descriptions of the position.

Interviewing a Disabled Applicant

Under the ADA, an employer is limited in the type and scope of questions it may ask a disabled applicant. As a general rule, interview inquiries directed at disabled individuals should focus on the applicants' ability to perform the essential functions of the job and not on their disabilities.

Employers should not presume an individual does not have a disability because it is not apparent by looking at him or her. Employers should keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible, and individuals may suffer from disabilities that are not observable, such as arthritis, asthma, closed head injuries or learning disabilities.

When interviewing disabled applicants an employer MAY ask:

  • If they are able to perform the essential functions of the job
  • If they are able to meet the attendance requirements of the job
  • For applicants with apparent disabilities, for a description or demonstration of how they will perform the essential functions of the job

When interviewing disabled applicants an employer MAY NOT ask:

  • If they suffer from a particular disease
  • The severity of their disability (if the disability is visible)
  • To explain what condition causes their disability
  • The prognosis of their disability
  • If they will need to undergo special medical treatments

Employers may not ask job applicants to submit to any type of medical testing prior to making a job offer. Once a job offer has been made, employers may then only request applicants submit to medical testing if every applicant for this position has been required to do so, regardless of whether or not they have a disability. While employers may condition employment on the results of the medical exam, employers may only refuse to hire individuals based on their disabilities if they can show the decision was based on:

  • The applicant's inability to perform the essential functions of the job
  • The absence of any reasonable accommodation to make it possible for the applicant to complete the duties of the job

Accommodating a Disabled Employee

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who need them to perform the essential duties of their jobs. The ADA does not require an employer to provide the best possible accommodation to the employee or the most expensive. What constitutes a reasonable accommodation must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Courts generally have considered whether or not the accommodation is effective in helping the employee complete their job duties.

Examples of reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Making the workplace more accessible by installing ramps and elevators
  • Modifying the employee's work schedule
  • Providing equipment or devices
  • Modifying the employee's workspace or location
  • Providing interpreters or readers or special software

In accommodating an employee, the employer is not required to provide personal-use items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids to disabled employees. Employers also are not required to provide accommodations that would constitute an undue hardship for the employer. This usually means accommodations that are too expensive or difficult to provide.

The employer may be required to make reasonable accommodations in non-work areas that are used by nondisabled employees. The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled employees in any benefits and privileges of employment. For example, if employees have access to on-site lounges or work-out rooms, these places must be accessible to those with disabilities as well.

For more information on the ADA or providing reasonable accommodations, contact an experienced employment law attorney.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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Betty L. Brown
Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
in Labor and Employment Law
Fountain Park
1021 Long Prairie Road, Suite 402
Flower Mound, TX 75022
Phone: 972-355-0092
Fax: 972-899-9635
E-mail: betty@brownemploymentlaw.com