The Americans with Disabilities Act was first created in 1990 to prevent discrimination against disabled workers. As of 1994, the Act covers all private employers and all state and federal agencies employing at least 15 workers. The regulations contained in the Act are enforced by the United States Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Who Is Covered?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as of January 2009 a worker is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA if she has a substantial physical or mental impairment affecting her body's ability to walk, fight infection, sustain normal cell growth, bend normally, breathe, speak, hear, see, perform manual tasks, learn without difficulty or perform normal personal care tasks such as dressing and bathing. A medical record of the disability must exist or the disability must be plainly evident for the impairment to be covered under the ADA.
Hiring and Firing Practices
It is illegal for an employer in the United States to discriminate against a candidate for employment who is disabled. The candidate is required to be equally considered for the open position as a non-disabled worker as long as the candidate's disability does not prevent him from performing the essential functions of the position. It is also illegal for an employer to terminate an employee simply because the employee is disabled. If either instance of discrimination occurs, the disabled worker may be able to sue the employer in civil court for potential future wages and damages.
Reasonable Work Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations to allow a disabled worker to participate in the job application process and to perform the essential duties of the job as long as the worker's disability does not otherwise prevent it. Reasonable accommodations can take the form of modified work equipment, a reserved parking space, modified work schedule, improving workplace accessibility with ramps or fewer stairs and providing readers or interpreters. An exception to this rule occurs when the cost of making the accommodations would place an undue financial burden on the employer.
Wages and Scheduling
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal for an employer to pay a disabled worker a lower wage than a healthy worker who is performing the same or similar type of work. It is also illegal for an employer to limit a disabled employee's work schedule when the limitations of the schedule do nothing to accommodate the disabled employee. A disabled worker is required to be offered the same sick leave, retirement options, vacation pay and other employee benefits as other employees occupying similar positions in the given company.