Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments. Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government. Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee; and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.
Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all employment practices. It is necessary to understand several important ADA definitions to know who is protected by the law and what constitutes illegal discrimination:
Individual with a Disability
An individual with a disability under the ADA is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having a disability. An entity subject to the ADA regards someone as having a disability when it takes an action prohibited by the ADA based on an actual or perceived impairment, except if the impairment is both transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor. Major life activities are basic activities that most people in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty such as walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, thinking, and eating. Major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function, such as functions of the immune system normal cell growth, brain, neurological, and endocrine functions.
An individual with a disability is “qualified” if he or she satisfies skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position held or desired, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of that position.
Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to, making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; job restructuring; modification of work schedules; providing additional unpaid leave; reassignment to a vacant position; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters. Reasonable accommodation may be necessary to apply for a job, to perform job functions, or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment that are enjoyed by people without disabilities. An employer is not required to lower production standards to make an accommodation. An employer generally is not obligated to provide personal use items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids. A person who only meets the “regarded as” definition of disability is not entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation.
An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. Undue hardship means an action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as a business’ size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
GINA prohibits discrimination against applicants, employees, and former employees on the basis of genetic information. This includes a prohibition on the use of genetic information in all employment decisions; restrictions on the ability of employers and other covered entities to request or to acquire genetic information, with limited exceptions; and a requirement to maintain the confidentiality of any genetic information acquired, with limited exceptions. Title VII, the ADA, and GINA cover all private employers, state and local governments, and education institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. These laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees controlling apprenticeship and training.