News & Information Blog

Americans with Disabilities Act and Your Work Place

By Susen Trail | 07/08/2021

Naturally, when an employer seeks to comply with a regulation, they look for specific guidance, such as a clear list of who is covered by the regulation.  However, the Americans with Disability Act, ADA, has no clear-cut list.  If the person meets one of the three criteria, they are considered disabled:

  1. The person has a mental or physical impairment preventing participation in major life activities.
  2. The person has a record or history of number 1.
  3. The individual is regarded as physically or mentally impaired.

Physical impairment includes loss of a limb, cosmetic disfigurement, physiological disorder or condition affecting at least one of the following systems:

  • Neurological
  • Special-sense organs
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Digestive
  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Reproductive
  • Hemic and lymphatic
  • Endocrine
  • Skin
  • Genitourinary

Any psychological or mental disorder, including learning disorders, are considered mental impairment.  The ADA only includes depression and stress when they become so debilitating

The reason there is no comprehensive list of disabilities protected by the Americans with Disability Act, or by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, is to be inclusive of both current and future disorders

The ADA and EEOC, classification of an occupational impairment is based on the effect of the illness or injury to the employee, who is significantly limited in his/her ability to perform major life activities such as:

  • Seeing
  • Walking
  • Communicating
  • Sitting
  • Reading

There is a limit to the accommodations an employer is required to make for a disabled employee.  When a job applicant or employee has a disability, the employer is required to provide "Reasonable Accommodations" as long as they don't result in undue hardship on the company's operations.  Undue hardship is when the accommodation is unreasonable, or places an unbalanced burden or barrier based on the company's resources:

  • Financial
  • Structural
  • Administrative

Example A:

A friend of mine worked at an international company.  Over time her body became unable to do the physical tasks of her work area.  She was able to take care of herself, her property and house, and multitude of dogs, chickens, etc.  She told me that the company had to accommodate her under the ADA and because she did not want to move to a different work area.  She was offered a sideways transfer to another part of the plant, all benefits and pay the same.  She refused and was fired.

  1. She was not covered under the ADA as her back and shoulder injuries did not substantially limit her ability to perform major life activities. The company wanted to move her to another position in order to protect her health.
  2. It would have been very expensive, and potentially not possible given the position and size of the machine she worked on, to provide an accommodation to enable her to continue to work.
  3. The accommodation provided a balance of inconvenience to her and a learning curve affecting production speed and product quality to the company.

The accommodation would have been in compliance with the ADA and EEOC requirements.  The employee was fired before permanent damage to her shoulder and back occurred.

Example B:

I worked with a member of an organization while applying for a grant.  His sight was very poor, affecting every aspect of his life.  The organization provided him with tech that greatly magnified papers submitted so he could read them.  They provided a computer screen the size of a small end table so he could enlarge digital documents, emails, etc.  This accommodation enabled him to do his job quite competently.  The results proved the effectiveness of the accommodation, as we were awarded the grant! 

Simple Safety Coach's Safety Observation software enables employees to work together to create an accommodation.  Because our software is based on transparency the employees will know, and work within, the company's budget, structure, and administrative limitations.  This enriches your safety culture and increases the employees respect and trust in the employer, resulting in low turnover.

Looking to see if Simple Safety Coach is right for you?