The Americans with Disabilities Act and The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Who is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?

These Acts prohibit employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms and conditions of employment including a request for a reasonable accommodation.

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How does an employee know whether or not an impairment is a disability?

An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. Examples of impairments include cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, blindness, contagious diseases such as HIV infection/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, mental disabilities and mental illness. In addition, a qualified individual with a disability is an individual who, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question.

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How are essential functions of the job determined?

Several factors are taken into consideration to make this determination. They include the agency’s judgment, written position descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants, amount of time spent performing the function, and consequences of not requiring a person in this job to be able to perform this function.

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My physician has determined that I can no longer perform the essential functions of my position due to an injury. Is the agency required to modify my position to something that I can do?

No. An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation, nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids.

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During a recent interview, I was asked if I have any type of disability. I thought this type of questioning is illegal.

You are correct. Employers may not ask applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. However, applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions.

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Page last reviewed: October 18, 2010