Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. Under the statute, disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.” Title I of the ADA specifically prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the “terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” The ADA applies to all private employers with 15 or more employees, and all public sector employers.

For employees with disabilities, the ADA provides workplace flexibility by requiring employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” that enable employees to perform their jobs. In general, a reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that allows an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Reasonable accommodations include flexible work options such as part-time or modified work schedules, shift swapping, telework, allowing an employee to use accrued paid leave or providing additional unpaid leave, and reassignment to a vacant position. An employee, however, must still be able to perform the essential functions of his or her job.

An employer is not required by the ADA to provide a reasonable accommodation if doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the employer, which is defined as “significant difficulty or expense.” Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but also to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. An employer must determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular accommodation would pose an undue hardship for its operations.

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