The federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against otherwise qualified employees on the basis of an actual or perceived disability. Disability discrimination can occur in many areas of employment. These include hiring, firing, layoffs, compensation, benefits, job assignments, promotions, training, and other conditions of employment.
In addition to protecting employees with real or perceived disabilities from discrimination, the ADA also protects employees from workplace discrimination based on their association with a person who has a disability.
Disability-based harassment, such as a supervisor’s demeaning comments about one’s disability, can be illegal if the harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates an abusive work environment.
The ADA also requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for the known disabilities of employees. Reasonable accommodations are steps an employer can take to make it possible for an employee to do his or her job. In general, if an employee with a disability needs an accommodation to do his or her job, the employer should provide it unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. The purpose of the reasonable accommodation requirement is to allow people with disabilities to enjoy the same privileges and benefits of employment as people without disabilities.
Employers are only required to provide reasonable accommodations, which are not necessarily the accommodations an employee requests. Whether an accommodation is reasonable and whether it poses an undue hardship for the employer will depend on the facts of the specific situation. To identity and implement a reasonable accommodation, employees and employer should engage in an interactive process, where both sides work together to understand the employee’s disability and evaluate the possible accommodations.