The American Disabilities Act is something that everyone involved with human resource management should know about. In a recent trial reported by Business Law Review (BLR), a nurse sued her hospital over an ADA matter, and although the trial was initially dismissed from court, she is asking for reconsideration.
According to BLR, Denise Riley alleged she had cognitive disabilities that limited what she could do on the job. Her employers gave her a negative review and then fired her. She filed suit, saying she was covered under the ADA. However, the court decided that under the ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), employees can allege they have been discriminated against only because of an impairment. Additionally, the state of Pennsylvania is particularly strict about the standards of someone's disability when filing an ADA lawsuit.
According to the court, Riley had not explained the degree of her disability thoroughly enough to say whether she had truly been fired because of her condition. As such, her explanations were insufficient for proving she had a disability.
What must be taken from this story is that the ADA and ADAAA are broad in theory, but when applied on a state-by-state basis, disability claims and lawsuits related to them can sometimes require a very strict definition of disability.
Hiring for disabilities
Hiring people who are disabled can often bring more diversity to a company. This is part of strategic human resource management. When many different people come from different backgrounds and experiences, companies benefit from having a greater depth and breadth of understanding. There are some things that must be kept in mind when it comes to hiring people with disabilities, however.
The Small Business Association explains there are tax benefits to hiring legally disabled people. These come in the form of credits that off-set taxes. Along with this comes the responsibility for providing your disabled workers with reasonable accommodations, such as wheelchair access and a suitable working environment. Companies are not legally required to do anything but provide reasonable accommodations, which means that people with disabilities must "enjoy equal employment opportunities" as workers without disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Labor also has methods for ensuring those with disabilities are given equal opportunities in the hiring process. These can include forming partnerships with disability-related advocacy groups, along with posting job announcements in disability-related magazines or newspapers, websites and job fairs.
Internships and mentoring programs for disabled youth are also options for companies that want to recruit those with disabilities.
Legal issues to consider when hiring persons with disabilities
One thing companies should do, whether they choose to actively hire the disabled or not, is to avoid anything that the ADA and ADAAA would consider discriminatory in the hiring process. According to Fisher and Phillips LLP (FP), a legal firm that works with employers on legal cases having to do with the hiring process, many companies want to hire disabled workers but are unsure if they can do their work with appropriate reasonable accommodation. However, these companies are afraid to ask the candidate certain questions for fear of violating the law.
"A 'qualified' individual is one who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position the individual holds or desires, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position," FP wrote.
This means companies can ask a disabled candidate any questions they would ask a candidate who is not disabled. However, they cannot ask anything they wouldn't ask a candidate without disabilities. A good way to begin the hiring process, in this case, would be to begin creating a list of essential functions for the job, and then asking all candidates if they can do these essential functions.