Ask About the ADA

Do voting ballots need to be accessible?

Yes. Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public entities (state and local governments) must modify their policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to avoid discriminating against a person with a disability. Further, public entities must ensure that communication with individuals with disabilities is as effective as that provided to individuals without disabilities. For these reasons, voting ballots must be accessible to a person with a disability and provide an opportunity to vote privately and independently. How this is achieved can vary, but it might include an accessible electronic ballot, permitting an individual to assist the voter with a disability, an overlay or template on a paper ballot, or other alternative means.

 

 

Does my employer have to provide a facemask that meets my disability needs if they require face coverings on the job?

As of September 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have offered guidance on business reopening. Both agencies have stated that employers may require employees to wear cloth facemasks.  While these masks have been judged effective in lessening the spread of COVID, OSHA does not consider them personal protective equipment (PPE) and therefore businesses do not have to provide face coverings to their employees or ensure that these coverings are adequate.  In terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), EEOC guidance does state that if an employee needs a modification or an alternative to protection due to a disability, then the employer should discuss the request and provide a modification or an alternative assuming it does not cause an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.  If the employer has chosen to provide facemasks for employees, an accommodation request to provide the same to meet a person’s disability needs must be considered. 

 

 

How long should it take to get a reasonable accommodation for my job?

The regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) do not specify how long the reasonable accommodation process should take. However, the process should be accomplished as quickly as possible. The employer must engage in the reasonable accommodation process and not ignore a request. It may take time, however, to determine and provide the accommodation depending on what is needed.

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In their Enforcement Guidance, Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC states the following about the timing.

“10. How quickly must an employer respond to a request for reasonable accommodation?

An employer should respond expeditiously to a request for reasonable accommodation. If the employer and the individual with a disability need to engage in an interactive process, this too should proceed as quickly as possible.(37) Similarly, the employer should act promptly to provide the reasonable accommodation. Unnecessary delays can result in a violation of the ADA.(38)”

 

Are complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission anonymous?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal enforcement agency for Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Once you file a charge against an employer with the EEOC, they will disclose to the employer that a charge has been accepted on the basis of an individual’s complaint so that the employer has the ability to address it. If you wish to remain anonymous, they will accept a charge that is filed on behalf of someone else who has been the victim of discrimination. A person or an organization can file the charge. In such cases, they usually do not tell the employer whom the charge was filed on behalf of, but they do tell the employer the name of the person or organization who filed the charge. 

 

Are there State laws that protect people with disabilities?

Yes. Where the ADA sets the floor for disability rights and protections, states can go further to protect individual rights. Laws such as the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New Jersey Law against Discrimination (NJLAD) were created to strengthen protections of people in those states. One example of how a state law can differ from the ADA is where under Title I employment the ADA covers private employers that employ 15 or more employees, the NJ Law against Discrimination covers private employers of any size in the state.

 

Are there any State or Federal agencies that proactively enforce the ADA?

While multiple Federal agencies are tasked with enforcing parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they rely on individuals to file complaints to start the process. The ADA is a complaint-driven law. Title I (employment provisions of the ADA) are covered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Department of Justice enforces Title II (state and local government) and Title III (places of public accommodation). Other federal agencies with enforcement responsibilities include the Department of Transportation and the Federal Communications Commission. At a State level you will find agencies such as NY State Division of Human Rights or the NJ Division on Civil Rights that enforce state nondiscrimination laws.

 

I’m a small business owner. I’ve been thinking about hiring people with disabilities to help me fill some of my chronically open positions, but I’m worried about cost of providing accommodations.

Several studies have shown that an ADA accommodation is often an investment rather than a cost. Fifty-eight percent of accommodations cost nothing at all. Of those that have a cost, the median amount was $500. Also, employees who were accommodated had better performance ratings, were less likely to leave the job, and had fewer absences. Accommodations have a good return-on-investment. It nearly always costs far more to lose an employee than to accommodate them.

 

If you want to learn more, visit the Small Business at Work Toolkit or call us at 800-949.4232.

 

 

Is an assigned accessible parking space a type of reasonable accommodation?

Generally, yes. Where an employer provides employee parking, they also need to provide accessible parking to employees with disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. While an employer may limit employee access to accessible spaces reserved for customers, they still must consider creating a reserved and accessible space for an employee with disability related needs.

 

 

 

Can telecommuting be a type of reasonable accommodation for work?

Yes and no. If an employee needs to be on-site to meet the essential functions of the job, such as a machinist or a cashier, then telecommuting would not meet the reasonable standard. If during the interactive dialogue process it is discovered that the employee has minimal need for in-person interaction and can meet the essential job requirements with the use of tools like a computer and phone, than yes, this could be seen as a form of reasonable accommodation. As with any reasonable accommodation request from an employer, you must also still consider if the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer in terms of its nature, operation, resources, and circumstance.

 

 

Can a job coach be a type of reasonable accommodation?

Yes. Job coaching can benefit employees with different types of disabilities and work related needs. For example, a job coach can assist an employee to learn job duties, to create strategies for organizing and completing tasks, and to acclimate to the workplace. Individuals who need job coaching may qualify for this as a paid service from their state vocational rehabilitation agency.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that, “An employer may be required to allow a job coach paid by a public or private social service agency to accompany the employee at the job site as a reasonable accommodation.” For more, see the EEOC's Press Release: EEOC Sues Comfort Suites for Disability Discrimination.

 

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