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Quick Summary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

ADA applies to companies with 15 or more employees during the current or preceding calendar year.


ADA prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees who are “qualified individuals with disabilities”

  • Qualified Individual”: Satisfies the requisite skills, experience, education and other requirements of the position and, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.

  • Disability” means: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; having a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

  • Major life activities” include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others and working. Also includes the operation of any major bodily function (e.g., immune system, cardiovascular, etc.) .The impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing the major life activity. The analysis is in comparison with most people in general population.

There is no specific durational requirement for a disability

  • Impairments that last less than 6 months can be disabilities

  • For example, an individual with a back impairment that results in a 20 lbs. lifting restriction that lasts for several months.

  • Impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically not covered, although they may be covered if they are sufficiently severe.

  • Impairments that are episodic are disabilities if they substantially limit a major life activity when active.

Requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow employees to perform essential job functions, unless undue hardship.

  • Undue hardship” is any action that is too costly, substantial or disruptive, or that fundamentally alters the nature of the employer’s business.

  • Employer must engage in interactive process with employee to determine a reasonable accommodation.

  • No duty to create a position in order to accommodate. Only exception is duty to assign to an already vacant position which he/she is qualified to perform.

  • Duty of accommodation extends only to known disability.

  • Employers are responsible to provide an effective accommodation, not the best or most preferred.

  • Some courts have held that leave may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA unless the leave will cause an undue hardship on the employer.

  • There is no limit on the amount of leave that may be taken; however, the leave usually cannot be for an indefinite period.

ADA prohibits retaliation against individuals who have opposed unlawful activity under the Act, and interference with the exercise of rights under the Act.


Enforced by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)


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