The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 makes it illegal for companies to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability, according to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This legislation, which has been amended in the years since it was originally signed into law, provides guidelines to employers for accommodating and being fair to the differently abled.
There are limitations to protection.
“An individual with a disability must also be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation, in order to be protected by the ADA,” according to the EEOC. Specifically, they must meet the requirements set by the employer for education, employment experience, skills, licenses, and other job-related standards. In addition, they must also perform their job obligations with or without accommodations.
The job description matters.
In the eyes of the law, the job description matters because it will be considered proof of the requirements and duties the employee – regardless of disability – must perform. Therefore, HR leaders should carefully craft job descriptions.
This is actually a good fit with a general trend of greater transparency and a hiring process that is more likely to help employers find a good match in job candidates to avoid attrition. People should know what their days will be like, how they can succeed on the job, and what tasks they will have to accomplish.
Accommodation is not as simple as it sounds.
Reasonable accommodation refers to making a change or modification to make it possible for a qualified applicant or employee, who is disabled, to apply for the job, do the job, and experience treatment equal to others. In the legal sense, this could mean providing devices, making the workplace accommodating with structures like doorways wide enough for wheelchairs, and providing interpreters.
There is a caveat to providing reasonable accommodation. Some might see it as a loophole:
“It is a violation of the ADA to fail to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of your business,” according to EEOC. “Undue hardship means that the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense.”
While employers are not legally required to make all the changes, many are trying to equip their workplace so it is more welcoming to their diverse group of employees. Some are making any content on the internet accessible. Other examples might include removing lighting that would disturb those with photosensitive conditions.
Be aware of the limits to your questioning.
HR professionals should know that they cannot ask job candidates if they are disabled or about the severity of their disability. No one can require a medical exam before making a job offer. However, HR leaders and hiring managers can ask about the person’s qualifications and abilities to do the tasks of the job.
The ADA works into DEI strategies.
The ADA provides a kind of roadmap for employers interested in hiring and accommodating disabled employees. The workforce should reflect the outside community. Certainly, disabled Americans are in the real world, and they can contribute and excel. Ignoring their potential simply because of a disability is a missed opportunity.
One in four Americans has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Yet, only about 19% of workers in the United States are disabled. More HR leaders, however, are recognizing that they should never define a person by his or her disability. They should instead recognize the merits of their candidacy and consider them for jobs.
In fact, diversity in recruitment and hiring is a solution to the labor shortage. The CDC also reports that more than 45% of disabled adults have functional disabilities. Now, many companies can hire disabled people to work remotely, which would not require making changes to an office or workspace for accommodation.
Ultimately, by considering the requirements of the ADA and recognizing what their company can do to accommodate those with disabilities, HR professionals can open a new pipeline of talent. In addition, they can extend their reach and continue to diversify their workforce.