Are your hiring practices meeting ADA compliance? How do you know?
The first consideration is whether a small business is large enough to be covered under The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). That is, the ADA covers employers that have 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current calendar year, or in the calendar year prior. But, even a very small employer may have to comply with state and local laws addressing hiring and disability issues, says Eric B. Meyer, a partner in Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson LLP’s labor and employment group,
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency tasked with enforcing the ADA, has a great resource for employers of all sizes, which addresses ADA and hiring, Meyer points out.
“This EEOC guidance may not necessarily be the ‘law of the land,’” says Meyer. “However, courts often defer to the EEOC. Further, the EEOC investigates claims of disability discrimination and, in doing so, will apply its own guidance to those investigations.”
Among the 20 topics addressed in the EEOC Guidance, there are a few of which small employees should pay particular attention. These include:
- The circumstances under which an employer will need to provide an applicant with an accommodation to facilitate a job interview;
- How to respond to a request for an accommodation;
- Examples of reasonable accommodations for job interviews; and
- Which interview questions are taboo under the ADA
The U.S. Small Business Administration (sba.gov) provides a number of resources to help companies maintain ADA compliance when hiring. As an employer, you can take advantage of various programs that encourage the recruitment and hiring of people with disabilities, the SBA points out This will also make you eligible for tax credits that help cover the cost of accommodations for employees with disabilities. While this is an excellent way to expand and enhance your business, keep in mind that you will need to comply with certain legal requirements concerning the accommodation of employees with disabilities.
- If you are a new employer or new to employing people with disabilities, you should start by reading the Guide to Disability Rights Laws. This guide summarizes the major disability laws affecting employers, governments, schools and other organizations.
About the Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires any employer with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.
As pointed out on the dol.gov site, being inclusive of people with disabilities — in recruitment, retention, promotion, and in providing an accessible environment — gives businesses a competitive edge. Below are some of the common myths about how the ADA affects employers and research and facts that negate them.
That’s why the DOL provides some facts and answers to greatest myths related to ADA compliance in hiring, including:
Myth: The ADA forces employers to hire unqualified individuals with disabilities.
Fact: Applicants who are unqualified for a job cannot claim discrimination under the ADA. Under the ADA, to be protected from discrimination in hiring, an individual with a disability must be qualified, which means he or she must meet all requirements for a job and be able to perform its essential functions with or without reasonable accommodations.
Myth: When there are several qualified applicants for a job and one has a disability, the ADA requires the employer to hire that person.
Fact: An employer is always free to hire the applicant of its choosing as long as the decision is not based on disability. If two people apply for a data entry position for which both speed and accuracy are required, the employer may hire the person with the higher speed and level of accuracy, because he or she is the most qualified.
Myth: The ADA gives job applicants with disabilities advantages over job applicants without disabilities.
Fact: The ADA does not give hiring preference to persons with disabilities.
Employers should take the time to become educated on ADA compliance in relation to hiring. Employers should also be prepared to give those with disabilities a chance – as there are ready, willing and able workers who can make an impact if given a chance. Use these resources as a guide to get started today.
Resources to Assist Employers
A number of resources are available to assist employers in understanding their responsibilities under the ADA:
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
JAN is a free, confidential service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy that provides individualized accommodation solutions and technical assistance on the ADA. Among the areas that JAN can address are:
- Accommodation options and low-cost solutions
- Hiring, retaining and promoting qualified employees with disabilities
- Employer responsibilities under the ADA
- Addressing accessibility issues, including accessible technology
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
1-800-669-4000 (V); 1-800-669-6820 (TTY)
The EEOC enforces the ADA’s employment provisions. The section of its Web site titled “Disability Discrimination” provides access to numerous publications, including several specifically designed to answer employer questions and concerns.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ADA Home Page
800-514-0301 (V); 800-514-0383 (TTY)
The ADA Home Page includes many excellent resources for employers. The “ADA Business Connection” section of the site includes business briefs and tax incentive information.
Americans with Disabilities Act National Network
The Americans with Disabilities Act National Network, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, consists of 10 regional centers and an ADA Knowledge Translation Center which provide ADA information, training and technical assistance across the nation.