Kentucky's Office for the
Americans with Disabilities Act

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ADA & Employment
Title I

**DISCLAIMER: The goal of this web page is to provide a general overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus should be used for informational purposes only. For the sake of brevity, this site only provides summaries and highlights of the many components of the ADA. Readers interested in a comprehensive discussion of the law should contact the U.S. Department of Justice for in-depth ADA-related resources.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act addresses the rights of individuals with disabilities in employment settings. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Handbook (U.S. Department of Justice, 1991), the purpose of Title I is to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination on the basis of disability. As long as the individual is qualified for an employment opportunity, s/he cannot be denied that opportunity simply because s/he has a disability, and must therefore be given the same consideration for employment that individuals without disabilities are given. Here, we highlight several of the key points mentioned in Title I of the ADA. For more general information (i.e., who is considered "disabled" under the ADA, etc.), refer to the ADA General Information section of this site.

Title I is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Link to Who Enforces Title I of the ADA to read more about it.

ADA Title I Applies To: 

  • State and Local Governments
  • Legislative and Judicial Branches of the Federal Government
  • Private Employers
  • Employment Agencies
  • Labor Unions
  • All other settings except those mentioned below.

ADA Title I Does NOT Apply To:

  • Employers with fewer than 15 employees: Here, "employer" refers to the overall organization. 
  • Executive Branch of the Federal Government: White House and Cabinet offices use Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act instead of the ADA as a source of regulations regarding employees with disabilities.
  • Private Membership Clubs: Country Clubs, Lion's Clubs, Jaycees, Elks, etc.
  • Churches and Parochial Schools
  • Native American Reservations

Individuals with Disabilities Must Be Qualified:

Title I of the ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination during the hiring process. However, it does not require employers to hire all applicants who have disabilities. Under the ADA, job applicants with disabilities must first:

  • Satisfy the required skill, experience, and education levels required for the position.
  • Be able to perform the "essential job functions" with or without "reasonable accommodations" (see below).

 "Essential Job Functions" Explained:

  • The first step in making companies ADA compliant is to examine current job descriptions and ascertain which activities are essential job functions and which are not. The ADA describes "essential job functions" as the following. A secretarial position is used to illustrate each point.
  • Tasks that are fundamental and necessary for the position: e.g., typing proficiency, telephone skills, etc.
  • Does not include incidental duties: e.g., making coffee.
  • Amount of time spent on a specific task or duty: e.g., typing at least 50 words per minute. An employer is not required to hire an individual who performs an essential task at a significantly slower rate than other applicants, even if the slower speed at which they perform the task is a direct result of their disability. As long as applicants without disabilities are held to the same time standard for a task (e.g., must be able to type 50 wpm to be considered for a secretarial position), this is not considered discriminatory under Title I of the ADA.
  • What the employer believes to be an essential job function: e.g., operating the copy machine. The employer can set his/her own job standards as long as these can be verified (e.g., the secretary must be able to operate the copy machine because s/he frequently is alone in the office, the office uses a high volume of photocopies, etc.).
  • Duties performed by past and current workers in the position: e.g., using specific computer software, etc. However, instances where past employees have expanded their job function (i.e., gone beyond what the job description requires - such as a secretary voluntarily taking notes at meetings, creating a web page, etc.) are not considered "essential job functions" under the ADA.

"Reasonable Accommodations" Explained:

The ADA also stipulates that employers are responsible for providing necessary accommodations when an employee declares a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act Handbook defines an accommodation as "any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities". This may include:

  • Providing or modifying equipment (e.g., providing a dictation machine instead of a typewriter)
  • Making facilities accessible - removing barriers (e.g., installing ramps or elevators)
  • Providing readers or interpreters (e.g., sign language interpreters)

 The following are other examples of accommodations employers might provide. Please note that this list is not inclusive, and that the best method of identifying needed accommodations is to ask the individual in question what works best for him/her.

  • Interpreters
  • Phone Adaptations
  • Seating
  • Oral Instructions (vs. written)
  • Tapes of Meetings
  • Accessible Space
  • Extra Time for Tests
  • Lowered Light Switches
  • Tests on Tape
  • Large Print Material
  • Calculators
  • Blocks Under Desk
  • Note-takers
  • Technical Assistance
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accessibility


The Importance of "Declaring" the Disability:

An important element of the "reasonable accommodations" section of the ADA is that 1) the employee has the right to decide if they want to declare their disability, and 2) only if they have done so to the appropriate individual (e.g., their supervisor, the university disability office, etc. - this varies across settings) is the employer responsible for providing accommodations. No declaration, no accommodation.  Employers do have the right to ask for appropriate documentary verification of the disabling condition, such as a doctor's letter (for physical disabilities) or a psychological assessment report (for learning disabilities or mental illness).  The documentation should include a description of the disability (the disability does NOT have to be named), impact on major life activities and recommendations for work related activities.

"Undue Hardship" Explained:

  • This section of ADA Title I addresses the common-sense notion that not all accommodations can be provided in all settings. Here, the law stipulates that an employer is not required to provide an accommodation that will impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the business, where "undue hardship" means significant difficulty or expense in, or resulting from, the provision of the accommodation. The following are used to help make this determination:
  • Size of business: i.e., if smaller than 15 employees, the business is exempt from the ADA
  • Financial resources/Cost of accommodation: If the cost of an accommodation jeopardizes the financial well being of the business then employer can declare undue hardship.  However, before making that declaration the employer must attempt to locate other funds that would help provide the accommodations, including the possibility of the person with the disability contributing financially to the cost of the accommodation.
  • Alteration or change in the delivery of service: e.g., an auto manufacturer would not have to slow down the assembly line to accommodate a physically-challenged employee's slower pace.
  • Disruption of other workers: e.g., it would not be against the ADA for an employer to fire an employee who interacts inappropriately with other workers, even if such social skill deficits are a direct result of his/her disabling condition.  For example, a mentally challenged male worker could be fired if he continually makes inappropriate advances towards his female co-workers, even if his job performance in essential tasks meets expectations.

Medical Issues:

  • An employer cannot require a medical examination prior to a job offer to an individual with a disability.
  • A drug test can be required prior to a job offer (as long as it is required of all applicants). However, an employer may not ask applicants/employees about their lawful use of drugs because this may lead to informational disclosure of their handicapping condition.
  • Health Insurance: An employer cannot decide not to hire an individual with a disability because their disability would raise insurance rates.  Over the past ten years, health insurance cost of businesses have been shown not to rise due to employment of people with disabilities.  

Back to ADA General Information | ADAKY HOME


Updated: 08/26/2016

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