Definition of Disability Under the ADA
“Disability” is defined in the ADA broadly to include any physical or mental disorder or impairment which substantially impairs an individual from performing a “major life activity,” including the ability to work.
In order to be covered by the ADA, an individual with a disability also must be “qualified.” That is, the individual must satisfy the prerequisites of the job (skills, education and other job-related experience), and must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations, the job’s essential functions. The ADA identifies and prohibits discrimination against three categories of qualified individuals with disabilities:
(a) individuals with a disability
(b) individual with a record of disability, protecting individuals who have history of, or have been misdiagnosed as having, a disability; and
(c) individuals who may not actually have a mental or physical disorder but who, based on fear, myth, or stereotype, are regarded as disabled.
Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA
The ADA requires employers to modify jobs, the work environment, and the manner or circumstances in which jobs are customarily performed to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunity. Such job modifications or adjustment are called “reasonable accommodations.” An employer need not provide such accommodations, however, if they would pose undue hardship.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodation
* making facilities accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities;
* job restructuring;
* part-time or modified work schedule;
* flexible leave policies;
* acquisition/modification of equipment and devices;
* making employer-provided transportation accessible;
* providing qualified assistants;
* reassignments and transfers.
“Undue hardship” refers to an accommodation that would be unduly costly, extensive, or substantial, or that would fundamentally alter the nature of the business. Even if a particular accommodation would impose undue hardship, however, the employer must consider whether there are alternative accommodations that would not impose such hardship. The undue hardship exception is a narrow one. An employer should not refuse accommodation on the basis of undue hardship hastily.