Disability Protections at Your Business

Disability Protections at Your Business

December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities!

This international observance has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992 and it aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity rights, and well-being or persons with disabilities. Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans have some type of disability? If you don’t have a disability, you probably know someone very close to you who does!

In honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let’s discuss what disability rights look like in your workplace, how you can protect all of your employees (regardless of their abilities), and protect your business as well!

What’s a disability?

A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

Some of the most common types of disabilities (certainly not an exhaustive list of all disabilities that exist) include:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Mobility Disabilities
  • Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Visual Impairments
  • Deafness and Hearing Impairments
  • Concussion
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders


How are employees with disabilities protected?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. ADA disabilities include both mental and physical medical conditions. A condition does not need to be severe or permanent to be a disability. Certain specific conditions that are widely considered anti-social, or tend to result in illegal activity, such as kleptomania, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc. are excluded under the definition of “disability” in order to prevent abuse of the statute’s purpose.

The ADA provides protections regarding employment, public entities, public accommodations, telecommunications, and miscellaneous provisions. For our purposes, let’s focus on employment, but please keep in mind, the other subjects may affect your business as well.

The ADA and Employment Practices

The ADA states that a “covered entity” shall not discriminate against “a qualified individual with a disability”. “Covered entities” include employers with 15 or more employees, as well as employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees.

As an employer, you should be aware of the following:

  • There are strict limitations on when you can ask job applicants or employees disability-related questions
  • There are strict limitations on whether you can require an employee or applicant to undergo a medical examination, and all medical information must be kept confidential
  • You cannot refuse to hire or fire someone based on a real or perceived disability.
    • A good employee is good at their job regardless of disabilities.
    • The ADA doesn’t impede your right to hire and fire employees in order to employ individuals who are good fits for your organization.
    • You can fire an employee at an “at-will” basis for reasons such as disobeying rules within a signed employee handbook or failure to meet job responsibilities and requirements.
    • Always make sure that you’re standards for hiring and firing are never based on whether or not an individual has a disability. Learn more about: Wrongful Termination.
  • You cannot segregate an employee based on a real or perceived disability
  • The harassment of employees based on a real or perceived disability is illegal.
  • Covered entities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees with disabilities.
    • A reasonable accommodation is a change made in the way that things are typically done for a person with a disability.
    • This may include:
      • Special equipment
      • Scheduling changes
      • Changes to the way work assignments are chosen or communicated
    • An employer isn’t required to provide unreasonable accommodation (one that would involve undue hardship such as significant difficulty or expense.
    • The employee who receives the accommodation must still perform the essential functions of the job and meet the normal performance requirements.


Do you still have questions about your business’s liabilities or other Wrongful Termination concerns? We’re glad to answer your commercial insurance questions and find you the protection your business needs.

Give our office a call, today!


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