The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was written to prevent those with disabilities from being discriminated against, in much the same way that the Civil Rights Act prevents discrimination based on race or religion.
Employers must often make decisions on potential accommodation concerns involving a worker’s disability or the disability of a potential new hire. Matters related to disability often arise during the interview process and situations involving workers' compensation benefits.
Americans with Disabilities Act Summary on the Hiring Process
The hiring process often starts with an application or job posting asking an applicant to submit information about themselves. In either situation, companies should refrain from asking for information about a disabling condition.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Summary, all questions must relate only to a person’s capacity to do a job. For example, if a job solely entails lifting heavy boxes – asking about a person’s physical strength is allowed, but questions about a learning disability is not relevant to the job function and, therefore, should not be asked.
Also, any contact with former employers cannot include questions on an applicant's past accidents or health problems. Organizations should consider looking over their application forms to guarantee that questions do not probe for prohibited information.
Another step of the application process is the in-person interview. When a candidate walks through the company's door for the first time it might become apparent that they have a disability. Generally, an interviewer is prohibited from asking a person about a disability during the interview process, unless the perceived disability relates directly to a person’s ability to do the job. For example, if the job is for pizza delivery, it might be okay to ask a candidate if they have any medical conditions that will inhibit them from driving. The best course of action is to ask an applicant how they might do a job, with or without special accommodations.
Another thing companies can’t do is ask someone to undergo a medical exam or fill out a medical questionnaire as a part of the interview process since it would immediately reveal any disabilities a person has. An employer is allowed to require an agility test, but only if it relates to the job opening.
After offering a conditional offer of employment, a company can ask someone to furnish medical information or undergo a medical exam. This must be asked from every applicants, not just those suspected of having a disability. The results of these post-offer exams need to be kept confidential, as any other medical information in a work setting should be. Individual files should be set up for every worker: one for medical and one for non-medical information. Medical files should be locked up and only accessed by: supervisors who need to know about a worker's limitations or required accommodations, first aid and safety workers and government auditors looking into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
The results of the post-offer medical exam still can’t be used to eliminate someone from taking on a position, unless the exam results point directly to a condition that would make them no longer qualified. Disqualifying results might include those that indicate a safety or security issue. A conditional offer could also be revoked if an exam reveals a disability that can’t be overcome with reasonable accommodations.
Employers should be aware of the fact that they cannot disqualify a candidate based on suspicions about future injury risks or workers’ compensation claims.
An employer may consult with a doctor when making decisions surrounding a candidate’s disability, but the decision to hire or not, ultimately rests with the employer – not the doctor. A physician would base their recommendation on both the outlined job description, as well as the essential medical details of a candidate. It should be noted that if the candidate retains a specialist who determines he or she is able to do the job, officials may give greater weight to the specialist’s opinion than to the opinion of a general practice physician that consulted with a company.
Americans with Disabilities Act Summary: Hurt on the Job
The Americans with Disabilities Act not only applies to the hiring process, but also to employees that are working with a disability. An injury or illness could strike while on the job or at home and the Americans with Disabilities Act might apply in either situation if the worker is still able to do their job with or without some type of reasonable accommodation. A determination about whether or not the malady falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act Summary is made separately of qualification assessments for benefits under state workers' compensation or other disability laws.
Injuries don't always result in physical or mental impairments serious enough to considerably reduce a significant life activity. Also, many workplace injuries cause temporary problems which heal within a small amount of time with minimum long-term or permanent effect. As a result, many injured employees who are eligible for benefits under other laws may not be safeguarded by the Americans with Disabilities Act. A company should think about work-related injuries on an individual basis to find out if a worker is eligible for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If a worker’s injury is serious enough that they cannot perform a job without being a significant safety risk to themselves or others, and that reasonable accommodations cannot eliminate that risk – the employer is within their rights to terminate the injured worker.
Americans with Disabilities Act Summary: Conclusion
While they may not admit it, companies may be reluctant to hire someone with a disability or make accommodations for an injured worker due to the added financial costs of doing so. However, the IRS has numerous tax credits and deductions available to help offset costs. This kind of financial assistance is designed to bolster the ADA and give those with disabilities or injuries the chance to have a productive career.