Your Employment Rights Under the ADA

By Karen Lee Richards

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which took effect in 1992, protects people with disabilities from discrimination.  Title I of the ADA specifically protects them from discrimination in relation to employment.  It prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities.

Following are answers to the most frequently asked questions about your rights under Title I of the ADA.

Which employers must comply with Title I of the ADA?

  • Private employers who have 15 or more employees

  • Employment agencies

  • Labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees

  • State and local governments

Federal executive agencies are exempt from the ADA, but they have to comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is almost identical to the ADA.


Who is covered under Title I of the ADA?


Title I protects qualified employees with disabilities.  To be “qualified” means that you have the skill, education, experience, and other job-related requirements of the position and can perform the essential job functions, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Whether or not you qualify as “disabled” is a trickier question.  There is no list of acceptable disabilities, so no one is automatically included or excluded on the basis of their particular disability.  An individual is considered to have a disability if he or she:

·         Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

·         Has a record of such an impairment;

·         Is regarded as having such an impairment.


Major life activities include, but are not limited to, seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working.


What is reasonable accommodation?


A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.   Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations from the EEOC:

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