Find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about employment discrimination. Just click on a question below to read the answer or scroll down to read them all.
Which employers are covered by Title I of the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Title I employment provisions apply to private employers; state and local governments; employment agencies; and labor unions. Employers must have 15 or more employees to be covered.
What practices and activities are covered?
The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including:
- Job application procedures
- Fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities
Who is protected from employment discrimination?
Employment discrimination is prohibited against “qualified individuals with disabilities.” This includes applicants and employees. A person is considered to have a “disability” if he or she:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Has a record of such an impairment
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
People who experience discrimination because they have an association or relationship with a person with a disability also are protected.
Who is a “qualified person with a disability”?
A qualified person with a disability meets legitimate skill, experience, education or other requirements of a job, and who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.
What limitations does the ADA impose on medical examinations and inquiries about disability?
This depends on the stage of employment:
- Pre-offer: An employer may not ask or require an applicant to take a medical exam before making a job offer. It cannot ask questions that would reveal an applicant’s disability. An employer may, however, ask questions about the ability to perform specific job functions and may, with certain limitations, ask a person with a disability to describe or demonstrate how he or she would perform these functions.
- Post-offer: An employer may condition a job offer on the satisfactory result of a post-offer medical examination or medical inquiry if this is required of all entering employees in the same job category. If a person is not hired because a post-offer medical examination or inquiry reveals a disability, the reason for not hiring must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
- Current employees: After a person starts work, a medical examination or inquiry of an employee must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers may conduct:
- Employee medical examinations where there is evidence of a job performance or safety problem
- Examinations required by other federal laws
- Examinations to determine fitness to perform a particular job
- Voluntary examinations that are part of employee health programs
Are there confidentiality protections under the ADA?
Yes. Information from all medical examinations and inquiries must be kept apart from general personnel files as a separate, confidential medical record, available only under limited conditions.
Are tests for illegal use of drugs considered medical examinations?
No. Tests for illegal use of drugs are not medical examinations under the ADA.
What is a “reasonable accommodation”?
A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.
What are the limitations on the obligation to make a reasonable accommodation?
The person with a disability requiring the accommodation must be otherwise qualified, and the employer must be aware of the disability. In addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business. “Undue hardship” is defined as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense.
Can an employer consider health and safety when deciding whether to hire an applicant or retain an employee with a disability?
Yes. The ADA permits employers to establish standards that will exclude a person who poses a direct threat — a significant risk of substantial harm — to the health or safety of the person or others, if that risk cannot be eliminated or reduced below the level of a direct threat by reasonable accommodation.
How is a direct threat evaluated?
An employer may not simply assume that a threat exists. The employer must establish through objective, medically supportable methods that there is significant risk that substantial harm could occur in the workplace.
How are the employment provisions enforced?
To enforce a claim under Title I, a person with a disability in Illinois must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the alleged discrimination. Go to www.eeoc.gov for more information.
When can I go to court?
If the dispute is not resolved during the EEOC investigation, the EEOC will give the person with a disability a “Right to Sue” letter, and a lawsuit must be filed in court within 90 days.
What remedies are available in employment discrimination cases?
Available remedies include:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Restored benefits
- Reasonable accommodation
- Attorneys’ fees
- Expert witness fees
- Court costs
Compensatory and punitive damages also may be available in cases of intentional discrimination or where an employer fails to make a good faith effort to provide a reasonable accommodation.
- View our Employment Resources page
- Read about our case work involving employment discrimination based on disability
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Last updated: September 02, 2020