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HR Corner
Posted 6/27/2016
Author Olga Tua
 
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and governmental activities. This act was first enacted in 1990 and has since undergone a number of changes. The ADA, although not discussed in detail by many, is one of the few acts that are enforced by more than one federal agency due to the nature of what areas it covers. In fact, in addition to the Department of Labor, the ADA is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.

When discussing the ADA, as an employer, it is essential to understand the basics of some of the responsibilities this act covers under the disability discrimination. The EEOC has determined that employers with 15 employees or more will need to comply with the ADA. Employment practices that are unlawful under ADA are comprised of discriminating in recruitment, pay, hiring, firing, promotion, job assignments, training, leave, lay-off, benefits and all other employment related activities due to a disability. Under the ADA, a disability has been defined as a person that has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

Understanding what the responsibilities are is one of the first steps in becoming compliant with ADA. The next step is to examine how can you apply it to your daily operation.

It is important to note that although the individual might have a disability, the law also outlines that the individual must be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. This means that the applicant (or employee) will need to meet the requirements of the job for educational background, employment experience, job skills, licenses or any other qualification you deem necessary for the job. The applicant (or employee) will also need to have the ability to perform the actual tasks that would be essential to the job. For example, if the essential job functions of a receptionist are to answer the phone and work on computer related tasks and must have a Bachelor’s degree to perform the job, then those would be the elements you use to measure the right candidate for the position.

You would not focus on matters like do they need glasses, or a hearing aid, or a wheelchair as these would all be things that you as an employer would potentially be responsible for in providing a reasonable accommodation in order for the employee to conduct their job function. A reasonable accommodation could be a variety of matters such as providing a magnifier on the screen, providing a head set, making adjustments to the desk to accommodate the wheel chair, as long as it does not represent an undue hardship to the business. The main point is that the individual has to have the ability to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

It may seem straightforward when it comes to managing when, how and to whom you should provide reasonable accommodation, but the ADA is actually a very complex topic with many moving parts. It is always advised to seek assistance when faced with a request for reasonable accommodation as one wrong step in the process could lead to legal exposure from a compliance perspective. This is why at AlphaStaff, we can assist you as you navigate through multifaceted topics such as ADA and Reasonable Accommodation and provide support to employers to understand the intricacies of employment practices.

Through our certified Human Resources practitioners and skilled professionals, we are able to assist employers to minimize these types of exposures while still allowing the employers to make the decisions that make sense for their operations. At the end of the day, we do the heavy lifting by providing compliance guidance and allowing you to focus on your business. To find out how AlphaStaff can provide you with tools and services to educate you on employment practices that can affect your business, please feel free to reach out to our Vice President of Strategic Business Development, Jeniece Carter-Henson, at jhenson@alphastaff.com or at (727)365.6722, or if you would like to suggest a topic for our next HR Corner please contact our Market Development Department at marketdevelopment@alphastaff.com.

NOTE: The information contained in this article is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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