Four Ways Employees
Are Protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act
the average person, exposure to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"
or the Act) is probably limited to wheelchair ramps or signs allowing service
animals in public buildings. In the context of employment, most people have
little to no knowledge of what protections are offered by the ADA. This can be
partially attributed to the complexity of the ADA, with its interrelated
definitions and overlapping requirements. In some ways, The Act has been made
even more confusing by its long history of litigation, with the question of
whether the Act applies to a particular employee often boiling down to such
- What constitutes
- What is a major
- What is an
essential job function?
- What is a
all this complexity, it is no wonder that employees often don't know exactly
what their employer is required to do, and therefore don't recognize when the
ADA has been violated. To simplify, employers have four distinct obligations
under the ADA:
1. An Employer May Not
Discriminate Against An Employee Or Applicant Because Of A Disability.
an employee knows anything about the ADAs protections for employees, this is
usually what she knows--namely, that a disabled person cannot be fired or
demoted just because he is disabled. If the employee can perform the essential
job functions, then his disability cannot be used as the basis of an adverse
2. An Employer Is
Required To Provide A Disabled Employee With Reasonable Accommodations If Doing
So Will Allow Him To Perform Essential Job Functions.
many employees do not know is that an employer may be required to provide some
sort of accommodations to allow the disabled employee to perform the job. These
accommodations could include such things as additional equipment for the
disabled employee to use, alternative work arrangements, or anything else as
long it is reasonable to require the employer to do so. In addition, the
accommodation must result in the employee being able to perform the essential
3. An Employer May Not
Discriminate Against An Employee Or Prospective Employee Based On A Perception
That The Employee Is Disabled.
or not reasonable accommodations are ever requested by the employee or provided
by the employer, an employers perception that the employee is disabled and any
subsequent discriminatory treatment is also prohibited by the ADA. In other
words, disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an applicant or
employee less favorably because they have a history of a disability or because
they are believed to have an impairment.
4. An Employer Must
Engage In Good Faith Discussions With A Disabled Employee To Determine If The
Employee Requires Reasonable Accommodations To Perform His Job.
the employer is aware of or perceives an employees disability, the ADA
requires it to engage in a good-faith interactive process to identify
and implement appropriate reasonable accommodations. This duty is not exhausted
by one effort, and the employers obligation to engage in the interactive
process extends beyond the first attempt where the employer is aware that the
initial accommodation is failing and that further accommodations are needed.
short, a disabled employee is protected by the ADA, and may not be fired because
of the disability without the employer first fulfilling all its obligations to
discuss and provide reasonable accommodations. If after good faith discussions
and multiple sincere attempts to provide reasonable accommodations, the
employee is still unable to perform the essential job functions, then the employer
is under no further obligation.
Rex A. Christensen
practices employment discrimination law in Gilbert Arizona.
He can be reached at
This article does not
constitute, and should not be considered, legal advice, and you should consult
with an attorney regarding your own specific legal matters. The existence of
this article or your reading of it does not create an attorney-client
relations. Neither the Christensen Law Firm nor any of its attorneys may
represent you without first establishing that doing so will not create a conflict
Rex A. Christensen is licensed to practice law
in Arizona only.