Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

The purpose of the ADA is to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in the workforce as well as in most businesses and other places open to the public by requiring that "reasonable accommodations" be made for many types of disability.

The ADA leaves unclear the exact nature of an employer's responsibilities, and the extent of disabled employees' rights. Determining when an accommodation "reasonable," and when is it not can be a confusing question? It is also unclear as to what qualifies a person as "disabled," entitling him or her to protection under the ADA.

The ADA applies to all employers who employ fifteen or more people for a minimum of at least twenty weeks. It specifically provides that covered employers cannot discriminate against otherwise qualified individuals with a disability in:
  • The application process
  • Hiring
  • Training
  • Promotion
  • Pay and benefits
  • Discharge and termination
  • Any other condition of employment
Prohibited discrimination includes classifying disabled employees so that their job opportunities are more limited than the job opportunities of non-disabled employees, or setting standards that make it harder for disabled employees to compete. To inform employees of their rights under the ADA, employers are required to post in the workplace a notice outlining the rights guaranteed by the ADA.

"Disability" Under the ADA

The ADA only applies to persons who meet the definition of "disabled" under the Act. A person is considered disabled if he or she either actually has, or is thought to have, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a "major life activity." Major life activities are the basic components of any person's life including walking, talking, seeing, and learning. If an employee has an impairment that substantially limits his or her ability to perform one or more of these activities, the employee is considered disabled under the ADA.