The Critical Role of Managers in ADA Compliance and Disability Inclusiveness

Northeast ADA Center Staff April 26, 2020

An excerpt from

The ADA in Unionized Workplaces: Tips for Front-line Managers

Front-line managers play a key role in an organizations compliance with the ADA and in the successful inclusion of workers with disabilities within workplace communities. While HR personnel may be familiar with the letter of the law, managers frequent interaction with employees, their knowledge of essential job tasks, and their awareness of the climate on the work floor make them a critical party to the job accommodation and inclusion processes. Disability-related issues are but one of the many challenging demands on managers time, however, and the following may be helpful for front-line managers to consider:

       Although some disabilities are visible, such as when someone uses a wheelchair for mobility, others may not be obvious.

      The ADA protects the rights of those with obvious disabilities and those whose disabilities are not visible, as long as such impairment meets the ADA definition of disability (that is, it must be a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits an individual in at least one major life activity, such as breathing, walking, learning, sleeping, or concentrating).

      There are more than 36 million people with disabilities in the U.S., over 19 million of whom are working age. It is likely that you have more people in your workplace with disabilities than you realize.

      As people age, they are more likely to experience disability; the aging workforce means that there will be more people with disabilities in the workplace.

     Under the ADA, any inquiry at the pre-employment stage that would likely require an applicant to disclose a disability is unlawful.  Avoid such inquiries as well as any medical examinations before making a bona fide job offer. Employers may, however, inquire about an applicants ability to perform essential job functions and, within certain limits, may conduct tests to determine if the applicant can perform essential job functions, as long as such questions and tests are not medical in nature and are asked of all applicants. Once hired, employees may be asked to undergo medical testing that is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

In order to address the unique needs of employees with disabilities, on a case-by-case basis, the employer and employee must engage in an interactive process. This process begins as soon as your company's HR office, other company designated accommodations personnel, or you, as the front-line manager, are advised by an individual that he or she requests accommodation for a disability.   It is important that you are cognizant of your company's policy on this issue.

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Questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act?  Call 1-800-949-4232