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New York Employment Law - What is the ADA and How Does It Affect You?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law passed to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Part of the law covers discrimination in the workplace. The law ensures that if a disabled person is otherwise qualified to perform a job, an employer with 15 or more employees is legally obligated to make a reasonable accommodation for that employee.

What is Considered a Disability?

A disability is defined in the ADA as a limiting physical or mental impairment. The law also applies if an employer believes a person has a disability that limits impairment, even if nothing is officially diagnosed or if a person has a record of impairment.

In order for an employer to be obligated by law to adhere to the ADA regarding an employee or applicant, that person must be able to perform the employer’s requirements for the job. This includes having had the appropriate training, education, experiences, and licenses needed for the work. For instance, an employer is not obligated to hire a person with a physical disability as an engineer if the applicant received no formal education in engineering.

Employees and applicants must also be able to perform fundamental job duties with or without a reasonable accommodation. As long as accommodating an employee does not cause undue hardship the person should be considered eligible for the job. A reasonable accommodation must also be made for applicants with disabilities to attend job interviews. Applicants should notify potential employers in advance if a reasonable accommodation is needed for an interview.

What Can an Employer Ask an Applicant?

There are certain questions the ADA prohibits from being included in a job interview. These are questions that could reveal an existing disability and affect an employer’s likelihood to offer a job to an applicant based on disabilities or health concerns. Once a job offer is extended, some of these questions are permitted.

Restricted lines of questioning include:

• Specific questions related to existing disabilities (Do you have a disability that would interfere with your doing this job?);
• Time missed at previous jobs (How many sick days did you take at your previous job?);
• Previous on-the-job injuries or workers’ compensation claims (Have you ever experienced an injury on the job or filed a workers’ compensation claim?);
• Inquiries about heart or lung health (Have you been diagnosed with heart disease, asthma, etc.);
• Inquiries about mental health (Do you suffer from any mental health problems?);
• Inquiries about medication (Are you currently taking any prescription drugs?).

The ADA assures an employer is not permitted to turn down a disabled person for employment simply due to their disability. The law does not force employers to hire the disabled, but does require employers to accommodate disabled applicants and employees, and overlook a person’s inability to perform minor on-the-job duties because of a disability.

If you believe you have been turned down or terminated from a job because of a disability, you might have a right to take legal action. Contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a consultation.

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