Do you have a disability? If so, understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is important!
The ADA became law in 1990, which is an amazingly useful law for anyone that identifies with having a disability. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs.
Have you been injured, or do you have a disability that affects your work? If so, you might be confused about your options. We’ve collected some information that may help you navigate managing your disability and your work.
The ADA was enacted in 1990 to protect anyone who has a disability from discrimination.
A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits major life activities, like taking a shower, driving a car, or performing your job. Examples of disabilities include physical, mental, emotional, short term, or long term disabilities.
In order to be protected by the ADA, you must have ONE of three things: A disability that impacts major life functions, or A “record” of the disability (medical records or whatever papertrail you have), or Being regarded as having such an impairment.
The ADA’s qualification of a disability is will cover you for reasonable accommodations and protect you from discrimination. It’s important to note that disability benefits, through social security, may define qualified disabilities differently.
The ADA will protect workers with a qualified disability so that they can perform the essential functions of the position, with (or without) reasonable accommodations. It will also protect job seekers with a qualified disability from discrimination in the hiring process.
What does the ADA do and how can it help me? If you have a disability, the ADA can protect you from the following:
Treating other employees (without disabilities) more favorably
Discriminatory practices cannot be written into an employment contract
Work practices are not allowed to be discriminatory
You cannot be discriminated against based on your relationship to a person with a disability (example: you cannot be discriminated against if you’re a caregiver to your child with a disability)
Employers must provide reasonable accommodation (example: modifications to a work space) so that employees with a disability can be considered for the position, provide the essential functions of the job, and enjoy the same work privileges as employees without a disability
Employers cannot administer tests that screen out people with disabilities, and they must provide reasonable accommodations for testing. Employers cannot disqualify a candidate from employment based on their disability status (unless they are a “direct threat” to the health and safety of other employees)
Employers must administer tests that are consistent with the job/business objectives and must provide reasonable accommodations
These protections are designed to ensure that all employees and prospective employees have a level playing field and equal access to job opportunities.
Nowadays many employers ask for a drug test, have vaccine requirements, or require proof of other medical records for public safety.
If you have a disability, you are protected so that any medical exams and inquiries are based on general safety and NOT being requested because of your disability.
Drug use: the ADA protects people who are recovering or rehabilitating from drug addiction or alcoholism, however the ADA does NOT cover anyone who uses drugs illegally or abuses alcohol.
Now you know what the rules are, and how you’re protected, but what can you do if you, your employer, (or prospective employer) isn’t playing by the ADA rules?
You can sue the employer Submit a claim for pay discrimination
As a job seeker, your primary goal is to FIND A JOB and get hired. Look for employers who DO the right thing, who openly hire or pick from a diverse pool of applicants.
Whether or not you identify as having a disability, you’re in the driver's seat on your job search journey. Connect with the community and ask questions to get feedback from job seekers like yourself.
Get connected to more resources and information on the Jobcase Disability Resource Center.