Understanding the ADA

Ensuring Employment Law Compliance

By: Greg Modd

As Human Resource Professionals, navigating the complexities of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is crucial to our role. The ADA, a civil rights law enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The ADA impacts various HR functions from recruitment to retirement, making its understanding vital for an inclusive and lawful workplace.

The ADA: An Overview

The ADA was enacted to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. It covers a broad range of disabilities, including physical, sensory, cognitive, and mental health conditions. This means creating and maintaining a work environment that is accessible and equitable for all employees. The part of the ADA enforced by the EEOC outlaws job discrimination by all employers, including State and local government employers, with 15 or more employees.

Recruitment and Hiring

The first stage impacted by the ADA is recruitment and hiring. The law requires that job postings and interviews be accessible. This might involve providing job descriptions in accessible formats or offering sign language interpreters during interviews. It’s also important to understand that the ADA prohibits discrimination in hiring practices, ensuring that decisions are based on the applicant’s ability to perform job duties, with or without reasonable accommodations. 

The Interactive Process

The "interactive process" regarding the ADA is a critical and mandatory dialogue between an employer and an employee with a disability to find a reasonable accommodation that enables the employee to perform their job duties.

Here's a breakdown of what the interactive process involves:

It's important to note that the interactive process is ongoing. Disabilities and business circumstances can change, so accommodations may need to be adjusted over time. The ADA requires that employers engage in this process in good faith, actively and openly communicating with the employee to find practical solutions.

Reasonable Accommodations

A cornerstone of the ADA is the concept of reasonable accommodations. These are adjustments or modifications provided to enable people with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities. Accommodations vary depending on the individual’s needs but can include modifications to the work environment, flexible working hours, or adaptive technologies. This involves facilitating these accommodations and fostering a culture where employees feel comfortable requesting them.

Undue Hardship

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “undue hardship” refers to significant difficulty or expense incurred by a business to provide accommodations for an employee with a disability. Here are some examples of situations that might be considered undue hardship:

It’s important to note that what constitutes undue hardship can vary materially depending on the specific circumstances of each case, including the size and financial capacity of the business. It must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The ADA encourages dialogue and flexibility between employers and employees to find practical and reasonable accommodations.

Ongoing Compliance

Compliance with the ADA is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Regular training and updates for management and staff are essential. This ensures that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities under the law. Additionally, staying updated with legal changes and best practices in disability accommodation is crucial.

Winning Culture

Beyond compliance, the ADA encourages the creation of a positive workplace culture. Encouraging open dialogue and recognizing the contributions of all employees, including those with disabilities, are part of this process.

Addressing Challenges

Implementing ADA guidelines can be challenging, especially for small businesses or organizations with limited resources. However, the benefits of creating a winning workplace culture far outweigh the challenges. Not only does it foster a positive work environment, but it also leads to a broader range of perspectives and ideas, driving innovation and growth.

The ADA is more than just a legal requirement; it’s an opportunity to lead the way in creating an equitable workplace. By understanding and actively implementing the principles of the ADA, we can ensure that our organizations are not just compliant but also places where everyone, regardless of ability, has the opportunity to succeed.

Remember, at the heart of the ADA is the principle of equal opportunity – a principle fundamental to any forward-thinking organization’s ethos. At PPC, we embrace this challenge and turn it into an opportunity for growth and enrichment for our client’s workplaces.