What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a civil rights law that protects disabled individuals from discrimination throughout different areas of everyday life. The ADA protects those who have “a mental or physical disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” as well as those who “are perceived by others as having such an impairment.” In addition to keeping discrimination at bay in employment, the ADA aims to ensure that disabled individuals have equal access to:

  • Government services
  • Buying merchandise
  • Commercial facilities 
  • Public transportation

Why should HR leaders care about the ADA?

Knowing how to fulfill the ADA employer requirements can:

  • Contribute to ethical workplace conduct
  • Support successful integration of disabled employees 
  • Promote positive employee-employer relations
  • Prevent sticky situations, discrimination, and lawsuits

What can HR leaders do to work in conjunction with the ADA?

HR leaders walk a thin line of enhancing the employee experience and advancing the company’s business success. To assist both parties in reaching their goals, HR can:

  • Learn the regulations. The ADA regulations apply to companies with 15 or more employees, including labor unions and government agencies. These disability laws mandate that employers offer disabled individuals equal employment opportunities, including “recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, and social activities.” Employers are also obligated to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees unless it would put “undue hardship” on the company through intense financial or administrative pressure.
  • Define the company policy regarding disabled employees. Drafting a policy that aligns with the ADA and the company’s values can contribute to transparent, honest, and consistent interactions with employees. Demonstrating integrity in dealing with disabled candidates and employees reveals admirable morals while simultaneously furthering the company brand.   
  • Maintain communication with managers. The ADA is complex and comprehensive; it covers employees who are visibly disabled as well as those with inconspicuous disabilities such as PTSD, diabetes, or depression. Managers may be unsure who qualifies for the ADA and what their rights are, so communicating with managers can clarify employee status and necessary special conditions. 
  • Conduct the hiring process carefully. When interviewing a candidate, the employer is not allowed to ask if the candidate is disabled. However, the employer is permitted to ask indirect questions to determine if an employee has special needs. For example, it’s acceptable to ask if a candidate will need “reasonable accommodation” or an adjustment to the work environment. Determining in advance if an employee has a significant disability can help HR professionals understand if their company can effectively support a disabled employee or if it will be too heavy of a burden for the company. 

How can adhering to the ADA improve company culture?

Cooperating with the ADA can assist organizations in conducting their recruitment, hiring, and employment fairly. Keeping in mind the goal of providing disabled employees with equal opportunities, HR leaders can help shape a skilled workforce that reflects equal representation.