ADA Americans with Disabilities Act concept with books and stethoscope. ADA Americans with Disabilities Act concept with books and stethoscope.

The Impact of The Americans with Disabilities Act on Employment Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA, forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities not only across fields like employment, transportation, public facilities, and communication but also in regards to granting access to state and local government programs and services. 

Diving into the concept of employment, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act safeguards the rights of both employees and job seekers. On the same lines of thought, the aforementioned legislation sets out criteria for telecommunications relay services. 

Going down further, Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, commonly termed the FCC, mandates closed captioning for federally funded public service announcements.

It can be seen that although the United States Department of Labor, known as the DOL, Office of Disability Employment Policy or the ODEP, is not responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act, it does provide publications and technical assistance regarding the fundamental provisions of the law. The obligation of covered employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities is the primary aid provided under this segment.

On the same lines of thought, what serves as an addition to the United States Department of Labor, are several other federal agencies that have a role in not only enforcing but also in the ambit of investigating claims. They are as follows:

Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, known as the EEOC, is curated and has been made to act as an enforcement agency.

Complementing the same, this section stands to be responsible for not only prohibiting private employers and state and local governments but also restraining employment agencies and labor unions from executing any act of discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in various employment aspects that stand inclusive of processes revolving around job applications, hiring, firing, and job training.

The United States Department of Transportation has been bestowed with the power of enforcing regulations that are deemed to be associated with aspects pertaining to transit, which ensures the very fact that recipients of federal aid, as well as state and local entities overseeing roadways and pedestrian facilities, refrain from discriminating on the basis of disability in the ambit of highway transportation programs or activities. 

Americans with Disabilities Act
Photo by designer491 from Unlimphotos

Not only the aforementioned, but the department also provides guidance to transit agencies so they can facilitate compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which makes sure public transit vehicles and facilities are accessible.

What marks the Federal Communications Commission, also known as the FCC, is the essence of responsibility it exhibits in order to enforce regulations that stand in sync with telecommunication services. 

Under Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act, several provisions have been crafted to make telephone and television accessible to individuals with hearing and speech disabilities. To work in compliance with the aforesaid provisions, telephone and internet companies are required to establish a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services that enables people with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate effectively over the telephone.

Enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, the U.S. Department of Justice governs state and local government services under Title II of the said act as well as public accommodations under Title III of the same.

1. Different Federal Agencies Enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act

On the same lines of thought, like several significant federal agencies, The U.S. Department of Education makes it a point to bring into play Title II  of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prominently exercises restrictions on the aspect of discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the said department.

Running on the same plane is the idea of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is bestowed with the power of making sure Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act is essentially followed with regard to allowing access to programs and services and activities that receive HHS federal financial assistance. 

The fact that it ensures that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids in hospitals and clinics when needed for effective communication makes it one of the most essential branches of the aforementioned.

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also known as ATBCB, is also called the Access Board. It takes it upon itself to issue and curate guidelines that emphasize that buildings, facilities, and transit vehicles should be made accessible to people with any kind of disabilities. 

The said Guidelines and standards that have been crafted under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as other laws, not only establish design requirements for the construction and alteration of facilities, but these standards apply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, as well as state and local government facilities.

Diving further into the said idea, it has been categorically stated that under the United States Department of Labor, there are two entities which are tasked with upholding different aspects of the Americans with Disabilities. 

From the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, known as OFCCP, holding the coordinating authority for the Americans with Disabilities employment-related provisions, to the Civil Rights Center, shortly called the CRC, having the authority to enforce Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, that particularly serves in relation to the labor and workforce practices of state and local governments, as well as other public entities, these branches of power mark to be of utmost importance when speaking of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

a businesswoman with disabilities working with colleagues in a modern office.
Photo by YuriArcurs from Unlimphotos

2. Legislation for the Protection of Individuals with Disabilities

Regulating and bringing to the forefront the protections for individuals with disabilities are five important federal laws that save them from discrimination in employment and the job application process. These are as follows:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Rehabilitation Act
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
  • Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act
  • Civil Service Reform Act

While the Americans with Disabilities Act has been legislation that is generally well-known and most used among employers and individuals, the nondiscrimination policies of other laws might not be as widely recognized. This is the reason shining light on the other regulations deems it highly essential. Here is a brief overview of each law, along with details on where employers can find more information and resources for compliance under the aforesaid ambit of concern.

2.1. The Americans with Disabilities Act 

The Americans with Disabilities Act, known as the ADA, forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities as well as ensures equal opportunities for them in various areas that stand inclusive of sectors such as employment, transportation, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. There are two specific sections under the Americans with Disabilities Act that relate to employment solely.

2.1.1. Title I 

Specifically, the arena of employment of the Americans with Disabilities Act evidently restricts covered employers from engaging in acts of discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various employment-related activities. 

The aforementioned prohibition is exercised for having equality under aspects such as hiring, compensation, benefits, termination, and promotions. From private businesses, educational institutions, and employment agencies to labor organizations and state and local government entities with 15 or more employees, all of these entities fall under the category of “Covered Employers.”

Complementing the said idea to emphasize the aspect of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the EEOC, enforcing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act deems it essential. 

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website features a dedicated section on disability discrimination that offers a summary of the Americans with Disabilities Act provisions that not only oversee but also give the authorization to grant access to pertinent publications and resources.

Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

2.1.1. A Medical Examination and Inquiries under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Under the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are particularly prohibited from inquiring about the presence, characteristics, or extent of a disability when interviewing job applicants. 

However, what employers are authorized to do is the fact that they inquire about an applicant’s ability to perform specific job tasks. A job offer can be deemed to be contingent on the results of a medical examination, but only if such an examination is a requirement for all individuals who are looking for similar positions. 

It is essential to note that any medical examination that is conducted on employees must be directly related to the job as well as stand in sync with the legitimate business requirements of the employer.

Along the same lines of thought, it is crucial to pinpoint the idea that medical records are considered confidential, and so employers are required to maintain the confidentiality of any medical information they obtain about an applicant or employee, with specific exceptions. 

Such an obligation of sustaining confidentiality applies even if the information doesn’t take under its umbrella a medical diagnosis or treatment plan as well as the fact that it is not provided by a healthcare professional. 

Taking, as an illustration, is the idea that if an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act’s confidentiality requirements, then it should be treated as medical information subject to protection.

Running on the same lines of the aforesaid notion, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not provide protection for employees or applicants who are engaged in any illegal use of drugs for which an employer takes action based on the aforesaid. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act’s limitations on medical examinations do not extend to the aspect revolving around the testing for illegal drugs. Employers are owed the power to enforce the same performance standards for illegal drug users and individuals with alcohol-related issues as they do for other employees of their organization.

What marks as a highlight is the essence circling the fact that it is against the law to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on disability or for taking part in activities that stand inclusive of filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Standing as an important aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act, retaliation protection makes it a point that individuals are safeguarded from adverse actions for asserting their rights or participating in processes that are aimed at addressing discrimination of any kind.

2.1.2. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

In addition to Title I, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act solely revolves around safeguarding humans with disabilities against discrimination under the ambit of state and local government services, programs, and activities. 

Not only does it mandate that all state and local government entities, irrespective of their workforce size or federal financial assistance, refrain from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in the realm of employment, but it also ensures there are equal opportunities for the said humans under the same field. 

Running on the same lines of thought, the said section which is Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is brought into play by the United States Department of Justice, commonly known as the DOJ. 

The United States Department of Justice’s Americans with Disabilities Act website bestows upon the people the knowledge revolving around resources covering various facets of the said legislation in place. This stands inclusive of materials, information and data that specifically address the responsibilities and duties of state and local governments in the context of employment under Title II.

What Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Protect?

2.2. The Rehabilitation Act 

Apart from the Americans with Disabilities, Act stands the Rehabilitation Act, which revolves around allocating funds for a range of disability-related purposes and initiatives that take under its umbrella state vocational rehabilitation or the VR programs, independent living programs, training and research, as well as the initiatives of the National Council on Disability. 

On the same lines of thought, the laid legislation incorporates three sections that explicitly bar discrimination against humans with disabilities by particular categories of employers ranging from federal agencies, employers to businesses who enter into contracts with federal agencies, as well as programs that receive federal financial assistance.

2.2.1. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act makes it a point to not only ensure all and any federal employers refrain from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities but also emphasize the aspect that these employers must take affirmative action to both employ as well as promote qualified individuals with disabilities.

Complementing the same, it has been seen that each federal agency independently enforces Section 501 for its own pool of job applicants as well as employees. Dealing with the aforesaid ambit of responsibilities is the Equal Employment Opportunity or the EEO office of the relevant agency that ensures equality prevails when it comes to differently-abled humans.

2.2.2. Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act

In addition to Section 501, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act places a forbiddance order on the aspect of employment discrimination that stands on the basis of disability. Not only this, but it also mandates affirmative action in the arenas of recruitment, placement, and progression of individuals with disabilities by federal contractors or subcontractors holding contracts or subcontracts that exceed $10,000.

Enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, commonly shortened as OFCCP within the United States Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration, is Section 503. The fact that this agency solely works on preventing discrimination under the employment ambit makes it highly essential to ponder upon.  

2.2.3. Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Serving in addition to the aforementioned sections, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act bars discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by federal agencies or by programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance as well as those activities or events that are conducted by a federal agency.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is brought into play by the federal agency that provides the financial assistance or conducts the said program, activity or event. Such regulation is managed and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity or the EEO office of the relevant agency to ensure equilibrium in this sector.

2.3. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 

To focus on legislation that consolidates various federal job training as well as employment initiatives is another essential step. 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, most commonly known as the WIOA, is bestowed with the power to regulate all aspects of employment and training services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth, as well as Wagner-Peyser employment services administered by the Department of Labor or the DOL. 

Running on the same lines of thought is the fact that the said legislation has the authority to take under its umbrella the concept of adult education and literacy programs as well as Vocational Rehabilitation programs for individuals with disabilities administered by the Department of Education, shortly called the DoED. 

Section 188 of The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s section 188 is deemed to particularly prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities who not only apply for or participate in but also are employees of any program or organization that receives federal financial assistance under the said legislation or provides programs/activities as part of the One-Stop.

On the same lines of thought, it is essential to put forth the idea that section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is put into work by the Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center. 

From having a self-assessment checklist for covered employers and programs to all the other aspects pertaining to as stated above, it is the Civil Rights Center’s website that differently abled human beings can access.

Plate with disability person sign and the USA flag
Photo by designer491 from Unlimphotos

2.4. The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act

VEVRAA that is the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act is bestowed with authority to emphasize the aspect that employers with federal contracts or subcontracts, entered into before December 1, 2003, of the amount of $25,000 or more as well as those entered into on or after December 1, 2003, of the amount $100,000 or more, are required to offer equal employment opportunities for specific veterans who come with disabilities. 

Section 4212 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act puts across very explicitly the prohibition of discrimination against covered veterans with disabilities that falls across the entire spectrum of employment activities.

The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act was put into motion by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs or the OFCCP. From understanding the essentials needed for compliance to all other resources that refer to materials, data or respective authorities, the website of the aforementioned agency acts as the key. 

2.5. The Civil Service Reform Act 

The Civil Service Reform Act, consciously known as the CSRA, has been deemed to be applicable to a majority of federal agencies. The aforesaid act incorporates various regulations that are aimed at fostering fairness in federal personnel actions as well as in preventing discrimination against applicants and employees who come with any kind of disabilities.

Falling under the jurisdiction of both the United States Office of Special Counsel, known as the OSC and the MSPB, that is, the Merit Systems Protection Board, is the enforcement of the Civil Service Reform Act. 

From offering general guidance on their respective websites to the fact that the Office of Personnel Management provides valuable information on the CSRA in its online guide titled “Federal Employment of People with Disabilities,” the aforementioned legislation provides aid to all humans who function differently than the rest. 

3. Federal Tax Incentives for the Employment of People with Disabilities

The Internal Revenue Code takes under its umbrella several provisions that are solely designed to enhance the accessibility of businesses for people with disabilities. Offering general, non-legal information about three of the most significant tax incentives are the following.

3.1. Internal Revenue Code Section 44

Section 44 of the Internal Revenue Code, also known as the Small Business Tax Credit Disabled Access Credit, states that small businesses with either $1,000,000 or less in revenue or 30 or fewer full-time employees are eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year. 

Designed to cover the costs associated with providing reasonable accommodations is the sole goal of the aforesaid credit. 

From sign language interpreters and readers to materials in alternative formats such as Braille or large print, the purchase of adaptive equipment, modification of existing equipment, and the removal of architectural barriers, such expenses fall under the ambit of the said credit line. 

3.2. Internal Revenue Code Section 51

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is termed as Section 51 of the said legislation, deals with employers who hire individuals from certain targeted low-income groups. It stands inclusive of those referred from vocational rehabilitation agencies as well as individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income who can qualify for an annual tax credit. 

The said credit can amount to up to $2,400 for each qualifying employee who works at least 400 hours during the tax year. Not only this, but the fact that there is a potential maximum credit of $1,200 for each qualifying summer youth employee makes it an important aspect of the Internal Revenue Code.

3.3. Internal Revenue Code Section 190- The Barrier Removal

Section 190 of the aforementioned legislation takes into account the fact that businesses of any size can benefit from an annual deduction of up to $15,000 under this provision. The deduction covers the costs associated with removing barriers for people with disabilities. 

From providing accessible parking spaces, ramps, and curb cuts, installing wheelchair-accessible telephones, water fountains, and restrooms, to ensuring walkways are at least 48 inches wide, as well as making entrances accessible, the architectural/transportation Tax Deduction that is known as the aforesaid section, serves to be of great essence.

What is the ADA? Basics and Definitions of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Conclusion

To regulate any discrimination exercised on individuals with disabilities, legislations such as the Rehabilitation Act, The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, as well as The Civil Service Reform Act were brought into force. However, The Americans with Disabilities Act stands as the most essential. 

Title I, specifically, of the said legislation manages the act of discrimination under the ambit of employment to its best, marking it highly crucial for the citizens of the United States. 

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