Disabilities in the workplace
is addressed by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) which “prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants with disabilities in all aspects of employment including hiring, pay, promotion, firing, and more. It also protects employees from retaliation when they enforce their rights under the law.” Private employers with at least 15 employees must follow the ADA. Many individual states also have similar laws, which may apply to smaller employers too.
Employers subject to the ADA cannot discriminate against a "qualified worker with a disability." Furthermore, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for a worker with a disability as long as the accommodation won't cause the employer undue hardship. The ADA specifies what counts as a disability, which workers are protected by the law, when accommodations are required, and what constitutes an undue hardship.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, there are six myths about people with disabilities in the workplace:
Myth 1: A physical disability equals a mental disability.
Fact: A person with a physical disability, such as a motor or sensory impairment, will be in full charge of his or her mental faculties unless the disability directly affects cognitive functions. Unfortunately, in the minds of many, physical and mental disabilities are intertwined.
Myth 2: Employees with disabilities miss work at a much higher rate than employees without disabilities.
Fact: Several studies, including data from three internal studies by DuPont Corp., demonstrated that employees with disabilities typically have no greater absenteeism rates than that of non-disabled employees.
Myth 3: Employees with disabilities often are unable to meet basic performance standards, making them an unemployment risk.
Fact: A 1990 Dupont study, which surveyed the supervisors of 811 employees with disabilities, found 90 percent rated average or better in job performance, compared with 95 percent for employees without disabilities.
Myth 4: Employees with disabilities always need help. Taking the time to assist them in getting acclimated to their work environment will hinder your other employees, grinding productivity to a halt.
Fact: Many people with disabilities are independent and capable of giving help as well as receiving it.
Myth 5: Employees with disabilities will have transportation problems getting to work. They'll arrive late, if they arrive at all.
Fact: People with disabilities often are capable of supplying their own modes of transportation to work just like any other employee.
Myth 6: Considerable expense is necessary to accommodate employees with disabilities.
Fact: Following up an ongoing study by the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network (JAN), the University of Iowa's Law, Health Policy, and Disability Center (LHPDC) surveyed 778 employers that contacted JAN between January 2004 and April 2005, representing a range of sectors. According to respondents, most workers with disabilities require no special accommodations and the cost for those that do is usually manageable. Forty-two percent said the accommodation resulted in a one-time median cost of $600.