Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law designed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment and other areas of public life. The Act applies to all private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions with 15 or more employees. It applies to all employment matters, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, layoffs, compensation and benefits. Rules are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other local agencies that work with the Commission.
The ADA defines disability as any physical or mental impairment that significantly limits a major life activity or a person’s ability to perform basic tasks, such as walking, bending, reading, learning, or speaking. Impairments that affect bodily functions are also covered, such as chronic conditions of bowel, bladder, neurological, respiratory, endocrine, and immune system, including HIV/AIDS. The list of impairments is intended to be interpreted broadly in order to include various aspects of the disability spectrum.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects employees against discrimination in employment a real or perceived mental or physical disability. This state law provides additional protections for workers in New Jersey against disparate treatment by an employer due to a disability.
Who is Covered by the ADA
Many people are unsure whether they are covered under the ADA. It may be difficult to know if you have been a victim of employment discrimination unless you have a full understanding of your rights. An experienced Red Bank, NJ, Marlton, NJ, and Newark, NJ employment lawyer can be an invaluable resource and advocate who will ensure your rights are protected. Individuals covered by the ADA include:
- Those who have a diagnosed disability. Covered employees include those who are unable to fully perform certain tasks of the job due to a significant physical or mental impairment. This can be proven with medical records that document the impairment.
- Previous impairment. A potential or current employer cannot discriminate against an employee who previously had a disability, whether or not that disability still affects their ability to work.
- The employer considers the employee to be disabled. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against a candidate due to a perceived disability, regardless of whether the employee has or does not have a disability. This includes false impressions of a previous disability or employees with a disability that has not been reported.
Equal Employment Opportunities
The ADA designed Title I (Employment) of the Act to ensure those living with a disability are still given an opportunity to maintain employment. This also extends to ensuring those with a disability are offered the same benefits and employment opportunities afforded to those without disabilities.
Under the Act, employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and current employees. Reasonable accommodations include modifications to either the functions of a job or to the environment in which employees work. The purpose is to help those with a disability have the tools to succeed in a position for which they are qualified. Employers are also expected to provide a safe environment for all employees, including minimizing risks against health or safety.
While employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodations, they are not expected to provide accommodations that could create an undue hardship. For the purposes of the ADA, accommodations could be considered an undue hardship if they create significant difficulty for a business, either logistically or financially. Factors to consider include:
- Type of accommodation
- Cost of accommodation
- Financial ability of the company to provide the accommodation
- Size and structure of the company
- Costs already allotted to accommodations for the work environment
If an accommodation would substantially affect the finances of a company or the ability to perform its normal functions, it would likely qualify as an undue hardship. Smaller companies often have a better case than larger companies to establish an undue hardship due to their size and financial limitations.