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Employment Overview

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says employers may not discriminate against a job applicant who has a disability. It also says employers may not discriminate against employees with disabilities. This applies to many employment practices, including hiring and firing, and pay and promotions—and much more. And, in the Rehabilitation Act, the employment provisions of Sections 501 (federal government employment) and 503 (federal contractor employment) include the protections against employment discrimination provided by the ADA.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces civil rights in the workplace, including those that are described in the ADA.

To assist employers, the EEOC has issued guidelines on how to avoid discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities, like how to tell if someone is a qualified applicant for a job, when and how an employer can ask about a disability, and how an employer should handle the need for an accommodation for a disability. For example, an employer might provide an altered schedule or a piece of technology (such as a screen reader) to an employee with a disability who lets them know they need an accommodation to perform the main parts of their job. A lot of jargon comes up when talking about accommodations, including reasonable accommodation, essential function, and marginal function.

[ Read: About Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace ]

If a job applicant or employee tells their manager, supervisor, foreman, or human resource department that they have a disability, this is called a disability disclosure. Neither applicants nor employees are required to tell anyone at their work that they have a disability. However, applicants and employees must tell someone in a management or HR role about their disability in order to be eligible to receive an accommodation under the law.

A disability disclosure is different from self-identification of a disability, which is meant to be done anonymously on a form. This can help certain employers with tracking their obligations under Sections 501 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act to demonstrate how well they attract, hire, and retain people with disabilities.

The ADA also protects applicants and employees with disabilities from retaliation for asserting their rights under the ADA. In most cases, Title I applies to all employers who have 15 or more employees.

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