The ADA is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1990 and went into effect beginning in 1992. Its purpose is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment (Title I), in the programs and activities offered by state and local governments (Title II), and in accessing the goods and services offered in places like stores, hotels, restaurants, football stadiums, doctors’ offices, beauty parlors, and so on (Title III). The focus of this guide is Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Only “covered entities” must comply with Title I of the ADA. The term covered entities includes private employers with 15 or more employees, employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees. State and local government employers must also comply with the ADA. Federal executive agencies are exempt from the ADA, but they have to comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is almost identical to the ADA.
Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether you have rights under Title I of the ADA, but understanding some of the terms used in the ADA may help you make that determination. In general, Title I protects “qualified” “employees” with “disabilities.”
The term “qualified” means that you satisfy the skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position sought or held, and can perform the essential job functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
For additional information about the definition of “qualified,” see http://www.jan.wvu.edu/links/ADAtam1.html#II.
The term “employee” means, “an individual employed by an employer.” The question of whether an employer-employee relationship exists depends on whether the employer controls the means and manner of the worker’s work performance.
For additional information about the definition of “employee,” see http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/threshold.html#2-III-A-1.
The term “disability” is defined in general terms rather than with a list of medical conditions. The definition of disability includes: (1) a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) a person with a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and (3) a person who is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Therefore, to determine whether you have a disability, you must first determine two things:
1. Whether you have an impairment, and
2. Whether your impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.
In addition, you can meet the ADA’s definition of disability by having a record of or being regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
For additional information about the definition of disability, visit How to Determine Whether a Person has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at http://www.jan.wvu.edu/corner/vol02iss04.htm.
The term “essential job functions” means the fundamental job duties of the employment position that the individual with a disability holds or desires. The term essential functions does not include marginal functions of the position.
For additional information about essential functions, visit the EEOC’s Title I Technical Assistance Manual at http://www.jan.wvu.edu/links/ADAtam1.html, section 2.3(a).
The federal agencies that enforce the various titles of the ADA provide publications that help explain the requirements of all the titles. JAN has an ADA page on its Web site that includes many of these publications. The JAN ADA page is located at http://www.jan.wvu.edu/links/adalinks.htm.
The enforcing agency for Title I is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which can be reached at (800)669-4000 or on the Web at http://www.eeoc.gov. The EEOC provides numerous publications, including:
The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/ada18.html
Disability Related Inquiries and Medical Exams of Employees (EEOC Guidance) at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/guidance-inquiries.html
Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship (EEOC Guidance) at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html