Training Managers about ADA

Gina Deveney
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The Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled Americans from discrimination in the workplace or other aspects of public life. Businesses need to give managers training to help them treat disabled workers properly and ensure they avoid falling foul of the ADA.

One aim of the ADA is to ensure that disabled people have equal access to jobs that they are capable of doing. Hiring managers need to fully understand the requirements of the ADA to avoid a potential lawsuit. When conducting interviews, hiring managers are allowed to ask disabled candidates whether they can fulfill the essential functions of a job. However, they should avoid asking direct questions about the candidate's disability. Once a job offer has been made, the business can ask the candidate to undergo standard medical tests, as long as the testing requirements are the same for both able-bodied and disabled workers.

Businesses should provide training to help hiring managers comply with the ADA before any recruitment process starts. The business does not have to hire disabled workers who aren't capable of providing a job's essential functions with reasonable accommodations, but it is not permissible to turn down candidates simply because they are disabled. As long as disabled workers can fulfill the core requirements of the role, the business must take reasonable steps to help them manage in the workplace.

Training managers can help them understand exactly what is meant by reasonable steps. Some examples of reasonable steps include allowing a diabetic worker to take extra breaks for blood sugar monitoring and management. Alternatively, an employee who has chronic back pain might need a special chair that provides extra back support, which the business would be required to provide. Certain steps could be deemed unreasonable if they are too expensive or disruptive.

When disabled workers approach a manager with requests for help, the manager should document each request. Those requests that could be considered reasonable should be passed to the human resources department, which then needs to consider whether the request can be met without causing undue hardship to the organization. Training should teach managers to identify requests from disabled workers that could be covered under the ADA.

One key part of training is a discussion of which conditions are covered under the ADA. When they think about disabled workers, many managers imagine people who use wheelchairs or are missing a major sense, such as sight or hearing. However, the ADA covers all physical and mental impairments that "substantially limit one or more major life activities." For example, a bad back that makes it difficult for an employee to stand for long periods could also count as a disability and so could a mental illness such as depression.

Training managers to work with disabled workers in line with the ADA is extremely important. Training should teach managers to recognize disabilities, identify requests for reasonable steps to help a worker, and treat disabled workers equally to able-bodied employees.


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