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Questions on the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) establishes a clear and comprehensive ban on discrimination based on disability. Title I of the ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. The ADA's non-discrimination standards also apply to federal sector employees under section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and its implementing rules.

Experts on JustAnswer can help clear up some of your questions regarding the ADA. Here are their answers to some of the top questions on the ADA.

How is disability defined under the Act?

A "disability" is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A person is considered disabled if he or she has such a physical or mental impairment, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment. "Disability" covers a wide range of conditions and can include mobility, vision, hearing, or speech impairments; learning disabilities; chronic health conditions; emotional illnesses; AIDS or HIV-positive status; and a history of alcoholism or prior substance abuse.

How can you address discrimination?

You can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor offices in your area and file a complaint to have your case opened. One or both (depending on the details of your claim) will open a case. If you win, you could be entitled to other compensation, and the employer could be cited and fined.

Does the ADA provide for preferential treatment of the disabled?

The ADA does not provide for preferential treatment. It simply says you cannot discriminate against a person because he is disabled. The ADA also permits a disabled employee to ask for reasonable accommodation in order to continue functioning in his or her role. Again, the employer does not have to provide accommodation if it will create undue hardship on the business.

To be protected under the ADA, you must have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial, as opposed to a minor, impairment. A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning, or working.

Does the ADA cover temporary medical conditions?

The ADA generally is not intended to cover temporary medical conditions. A person is disabled under the ADA only if (1) he has a physical or mental impairment; and (2) that impairment substantially limits a major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, and breathing.

Can one be terminated for acquiring a debilitating disease like cancer?

Any illness that alters your lifestyle for any given period of time falls under the ruling of ADA. You may request reasonable accommodations from your employer. You are entitled to ADA protection while being treated or recovering. By law employers may not terminate you from your job. However, they can alter your work position and provide similar work on your return. Generally employers only have to accommodate up to what is reasonable for them.

Contact an attorney familiar with disability and employment rights if you feel you may have cause for a suit. You must also provide your reasonable request for accommodation in writing for this to be legal. For more information on your rights, check with Lawyers on JustAnswer.

Are there any rules regarding work schedule accommodation for caregivers of disabled persons under ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require accommodations for caregivers in the workplace. It only requires reasonable accommodations for a disabled worker. In recent years, employment law has seen a number of challenges to discrimination against caregivers, but with very limited success to date.

Under the ADA can an employer be expected to help pay for hearing aids for a deaf employee?

No, they cannot. Employers would have to pay for any specialized equipment that the disabled might actually require to work. For instance, if the company requires steel-toed boots but the employee, based on an ADA issue, requires a more specialized version, then the employer would be required to assist with that as a reasonable accommodation.

But items of personal use, like a hearing aid, do not fit into that category. The fact that the person has decided not to avail themselves of the hearing aid at home does not mean the need or use for it exists at work. The need -- hearing impairment -- is not particular to the job.

Here, an employer may be required to at least provide some other alternative means of communication or an amplified telephone, if it would be considered a "reasonable accommodation" in the situation (depending on the specific case).

A wide-ranging civil rights law, the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability under certain circumstances. It affords similar protections against discrimination as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made against discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics.

To learn more about the ADA and how it might apply to your work situation, ask an Expert.
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