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Who is protected against employment discrimination under the ADA?

Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities." Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with a disabled individual are also protected. The ADA defines an "individual with a disability" as 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. 

Who is a qualified person with a disability?

A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, other requirements of an employment position that they hold or seek, and who can perform the "essential functions" of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Requiring the ability to perform "essential" functions assures that an individual will not be considered unqualified simply because of inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions. If the individual is qualified to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation. 

What does it mean to be substantially limiting?

According to the EEOC, an impairment “substantially limits” a major life activity if the person is either:

  • unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general public can perform, or
  • is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which they perform the activity as compared to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general public performs the activity.

The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without regard to mitigating measures, including but not limited to: medication, prosthetics, hearing devices, or mobility devices.

What are major life activities?

Major life activities are activities that are fundamental to life and that the average person can perform with little or no difficulty, including but not limited to: caring for oneself, walking, talking, breathing, sitting, lifting, seeing, performing manual tasks, reaching, learning, speaking, working, standing, etc.

Major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function including but not limited to: normal cell growth, as well as functions of the immune, neurological, and endocrine systems.

In order to be covered under the ADA, the person must have an impairment that significantly limits one or more of these major life activities. The examples listed above are not exhaustive.

What are essential functions?

Essential functions are tasks that are fundamental and not marginal to the performance of the position or to satisfaction of educational requirements.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, learning process, or the work environment that enables an otherwise qualified applicant or employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job. It is the employee’s responsibility to request the accommodation and to supply the proper medical documentation supporting the need for such modification.

How do I request a reasonable accommodation?

If you are an employee having difficulties performing the essential functions of your job due to a medical condition, contact EOS. EOS will work interactively with you and your supervisor to determine whether a reasonable accommodation is warranted and, if so, what the reasonable accommodation should entail.