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What the ADA means for your Job Search

I. It is illegal to discriminate against a qualified applicant with a disability by private businesses that have 15 or more employees and state and local governments.
  • An applicant with a disability must still meet all requirements for the position, including education, skills, and training.
  • An applicant with a disability must be able to perform all “essential duties” of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.

EXAMPLE: An employer requires each candidate have completed an MBA program. Heather, who has a learning disability, has an MBA. Derek has the same learning disability but does not have an MBA. The employer may not discriminate against Heather due to her disability, but he may refuse to interview Derek because he does not have the appropriate credentials for the position.

II. An employer must make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability during the interview process.
  • During the interview process, some reasonable accommodations include: providing written materials in accessible formats including braille and large print, providing sign language interpreters, and adjusting or modifying the application process.
  • It is important to request accommodations for an interview well in advance so that the employer can make necessary arrangements.

EXAMPLE: Kevin has a cognitive impairment that requires the use of a computer for extensive written output. If an employer administers a written test on accountancy as a component of an interview, she is required to provide Kevin with an alternative format of the test that accomodates his disability and allow him to complete the test.

III. An employer may not ask questions regarding disability prior to making a job offer.
  • An employer may not inquire about disability at any point prior to extending a job offer, including during an application or interview.
  • An employer may ask about the ability to complete functions essential to the job as long as the questions are not phrased to elicit the presence of a disability.
    • Questions that an employer cannot ask include:
      • Do you have a disability that would affect your performance on the job?
      • Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
      • Are you currently taking any prescription drugs.
  • If an employer asks a question regarding a disability, you need to decide how you would like to respond. You may decline to answer, as it is against the law for them to do so.
  • An employer may inquire about disability after making a job offer.

EXAMPLE: Nita is dyslexic and is interviewing for a job with Hampton Marketing. While the employer may not ask Nita about her disability during the interview, he may ask Nita about what accommodations she might need after he has extended a job offer.

IV. An employer must make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability during employment.
  • Employers are able to choose among effective options for accommodation.
  • Employers do not have to make accommodations that cause an “undue hardship”.
  • Employers do not have to remove essential functions or alter the job requirements due to a disability.

EXAMPLE: Manuel uses a wheelchair and has recently been hired by Bayou City Electric. Bayou City Electric would not be required to install an elevator in their office for Manuel, as this accommodation could be considered an “undue hardship.” They would be required to make alternative accommodations, which would be to ensure that all aspects of Manuel’s job could be completed on the first floor of the building.