Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Legal Protections At Work
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that provides protections for qualified employees that have a "disability" as defined in the law. You do not have to be in a wheelchair to be "disabled" as defined in the ADA. Instead, just about any life challenging condition qualifies - including a condition which is in remission if it would be considered to be a "disability" when active. Even the perception that other people think you are "disabled" qualifies you for protection under the law.
While the ADA only applies to larger employers, many state laws extend the benefits to employees of smaller employers.
The ADA applies to all phases of employment including:
- A covered prospective employer cannot ask about your health condition unless it is relevant to the performance of the job.
- If an employer knows about your health condition, the ADA permits an employer to refuse to hire you if the work poses a direct threat to your health or safety or your condition poses a direct threat to others.
- The ADA does not require an employer to hire a person with a disability over other applicants because the person has a disability. It only prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
- While you are at work: As long as you can perform the essential functions of your job:
- You cannot be discriminated against in your work load, compensation, advancement etc.
- Your employer must provide equal access to whatever health insurance coverage is offered to other employees.
- Your employer must keep your health information confidential.
- You must be provided a reasonable accommodation if necessary to do your job.
- Keep in mind that you are no longer locked into your job because of your health condition. You can change jobs for greater real earnings or more job satisfaction or any other personal reason.
- You cannot be fired because of your health condition. However, you can be fired for poor performance.
Our content provides information about the ADA and similar laws, as well as practical information. For instance, if you have a life-challenging condition, as a practical matter:
- When looking for a job, even though it is not supposed to come up, learn what to say if asked about your health condition.
- If you are working:
- Think about whether your employer is friendly to people with your condition before disclosing. On the other hand, if you need an accommodation to do your work, you may be fired for poor performance if you do not ask for it.
- Keep a work journal including good things said about you in case you believe you become discriminated against.
- Before negotiating for an accommodation, prepare in advance, including the accommodation you need, how to negotiate for it, and who to talk with.
- Think about disclosing your condition to co-workers before you do. Once disclosed, you cannot take back the information.
- If you are fired, negotiate for what you want.
For information, see:
- Eligibility For ADA Protections ("disability" and "qualified" to do your job)
- Covered Employers
- Americans With Disabilities: The State Fair Employment Laws (similar to the ADA)
- Discrimination 101
- How To Determine What Is A Reasonable Accommodation For My My Job
- How To Request And Negotiate An Accommodation At Work
- Confidentiality 101: What An Employer May And May Not Do Under The ADA
- Enforcement Of Your Rights Under The ADA
For information about additional legal protections at work, click here.