Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability. The ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more employees and to state and local government employers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA.
The ADA defines an individual with a disability as a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, (2) has a record or history of a substantially limiting impairment, or (3) is regarded or perceived by an employer as having a substantially limiting impairment.
An applicant with a disability, like all other applicants, must be able to meet the employer's requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses. In addition, an applicant with a disability must be able to perform the "essential functions" of the job the fundamental duties either on her own or with the help of "reasonable accommodation." However, an employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that will cause "undue hardship," which is significant difficulty or expense.
This fact sheet addresses common questions about how the ADA protects applicants with disabilities. The information in this fact sheet also applies to applicants for federal employment, who are protected from discrimination by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 501's requirements are the same as those that apply to employers covered by the ADA. There are many other documents, some of which are listed at the end of this fact sheet, that provide more in-depth information about the employment rights of individuals with disabilities.