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Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Overview

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Apr 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants with disabilities in all aspects of employment including but not limited to hiring, firing, promotion, salaries and training opportunities.

In addition to not discriminating against employees with disabilities, the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers who have disabilities, as long as providing such as accommodation would not cause the employer undue hardship. 

The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in State and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications.

The ADA specifically states what amounts to a disability, which workers are protected under this law and when accommodations are warranted. Employers who have at least 15 employees are covered under the ADA.

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability, an experienced Los Angeles discrimination lawyer at Kingsley and Kingsley Lawyers can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Call us today to find out how we can help you.

Key Points - Table of Contents

What Types Of Employers And Employees Are Covered?

Discrimination in the workplace against individuals with disabilities is illegal if practiced by private employers, local and state governments, employment agencies, labor organizations and labor-management committees.

The ADA outlaws job discrimination by all employers with state and local government employers with 25 or more employees after July 26, 1992, and all employers with 15 or more employees after July 26, 1994.

Another section of the ADA, enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, prohibits discrimination in state and local government programs and activities including discrimination by all state and local governments regardless of the number of employees after January 26, 1992.

The ADA protects the following employees: 

  • An employee who has a disability. This may include workers who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
  • An employee with a history of impairment. An employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee based on his or her previous disability. This is often true for employees who are in remission from cancer or has recovered from another disease or disability.
  • An employee who is perceived as disabled. This occurs when an employer discriminates against an employee based on the incorrect belief that he or she has a disability. That employee would be protected under the ADA even if the employer is wrong and if the employee is not actually disabled.

"Impairment" As Defined By ADA

In order to receive protection from the ADA, an employee must have, have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial (as opposed to minor) impairment.

A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for one's own needs, learning or working.

An individual with a disability must also be qualified to perform the essential functions or duties of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation, to be protected from job discrimination under the ADA.

This means you must first satisfy the employer's requirements for the job such as education, experience, skills, professional license requirements, etc.

Secondly, you must be able to perform the essential functions or fundamental job duties on your own or with reasonable accommodation.

An employer cannot refuse to hire you because your disability does not allow you to perform duties that are not essential to your job. Such actions could result in a discrimination lawsuit against the employer.

Reasonable Accommodation: What Does It Mean?

A reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes in the workplace that will help an employee do his or her job in spite of having a disability.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities unless doing so would pose an "undue hardship" to employers.

Qualified employees are those who have the education, the job experience and skills necessary to do the job.

Here are a few examples of what a reasonable accommodation would look like in a workplace:

  • Making existing facilities usable by employees with disabilities. These modifications may include wheelchair ramps to give an employee in a wheelchair access to the building; modifying the height of desks or equipment; or installing special software or telecommunications for those with speech and/or hearing impairments.
  • Providing more flexibility with hours. For example, allowing 10-hour/4-day workweeks so that a worker can receive medical treatments.
  • Providing more medical leave. Some employers may provide a reasonable amount of additional unpaid leave for medical treatment.
  • Hiring interpreters. Some employers may hire interpreters to assist the disabled employee.
  • Providing more training. An employer may provide temporary workplace specialists to assist in training.

It is important to remember that the ADA does not mandate employers to make accommodations that would cause them an undue hardship such as significant difficulty or expense.

In order to prove that a particular accommodation would present an undue hardship, an employer must show that making that accommodation was too costly, extensive or disruptive.

Some of the factors that will come into play in such cases are the nature and cost of an accommodation; the employer's financial resources; the nature of the business and its size; and accommodation costs incurred by the employer already.

Often showing financial difficulty alone is not sufficient for an employer to justify undue hardship.

Courts may look at other sources of money such as tax credits or deductions that are available for making some accommodations and the disabled employee's willingness to pay for all of the costs or at least a part of it.

What Actions Can You Take?

If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of your disability it is important that you contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A discrimination charge should be filed generally within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. If you are successful with your claim, you may be entitled to hiring, promotion, reinstatement, back pay or reasonable accommodation.

You may also be entitled to receive attorney's fees.

The experienced ADA employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley have an excellent track record representing the rights of employees who have been discriminated against.

We will fight hard to secure justice and fair compensation for your tremendous losses. Call us at (818) 990-8300
for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.


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