The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities and is enforced by the EEOC. Discrimination based on disability means treating a qualified person unfavorably because of a disability. For example, if someone has AIDS that is controlled, the employee cannot be treated unfavorably. The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or applicant with a disability, unless this accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. A reasonable accommodation is defined by the EEOC as 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. A reasonable accommodation might include making the workplace accessible for wheelchair use or providing equipment for someone who is hearing or vision impaired.
This law does not mean that organizations are required to hire unqualified people. The law specifically states the person must be qualified for the job and have a disability defined by the law. A disability defined by the law can include the following:
- Physical or mental condition that limits a major life activity (walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning)
- History of a disability (e.g., cancer that is in remission)
- Physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last less than six months)
The law places limits on employers when it comes to asking job applicants questions about medical history or asking a person to take a medical exam.