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Understanding disability discrimination

You likely already know that employers cannot discriminate against you, whether in terms of hiring you, promoting you or refusing to reasonably accommodate your disability. TheĀ Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits them from doing these things, and if one of them should fail to abide by ADA rules and regulations, you have the right to sue.

What you may not know, however, is that you must qualify for ADA protection. This means that not only must you possess the requisite qualifications to discharge whatever duties the job entails, you also must fall within one of the following three criteria:

  1. You must suffer from a physical or mental disease or condition that significantly curtails your ability to see, walk, hear, speak, learn, etc.
  2. You must have a disability history, such as a type of cancer that currently is in remission.
  3. Your prospective or current employer must believe that you have a significant and permanent physical or mental disability, even if you do not actually have that disability.

Hiring process

When you interview for a new job, the interviewer can only ask you if you can do the job for which you are applying, whether or not the company provides accommodation. (S)he cannot ask you any medical questions or insist that you submit to a medical examination. Nor can (s)he ask you if you have a disability and, if so, to define its nature. Assuming (s)he offers you the job, however, (s)he can ask you medical questions at that point and condition his or her job offer on the answers you provide. If the company requires all applicants for this job to pass a medical exam as a condition of employment, (s)he can likewise require you to pass one.

Reasonable accommodation

ADA rules and regulations require that an employer reasonably accommodate your disability. However, the ADA also provides for hardship exemptions. For instance, a company need not accommodate you if it would have to go to considerable expense in order to do so. Generally, only relatively small companies with limited resources and business needs fall within the exemption criteria.

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