Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers, including state and local governments, with 15 or more employees, are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. Title I protects qualified individuals with disabilities in several areas, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation and job training. It is also unlawful to retaliate against someone for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on disability, or for filing an ADA discrimination charge. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) shares enforcement authority for Title I of the ADA with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has primary responsibility for enforcing the employment provisions of the law. (Note: Federal employees and job applicants are covered by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 instead of the ADA. The protections are mostly the same.)
One of the key non-discrimination aspects of Title I is the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job seekers with disabilities. Accommodations make it possible for a person with a disability to perform their job, but they must not create an "undue hardship" for the employer, in other words cause too much difficulty or expense to implement. What are some examples of reasonable accommodations that may be needed during the hiring process? They can take many forms, including providing written materials in accessible formats, such as large print, Braille or audiotape, and providing readers or sign language interpreters.
While the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) does not enforce the ADA, it does offer information and resources to educate employers about their responsibilities under the law, in particular as they relate to providing accommodations. A key resource is the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which provides expert, one-on-one assistance to employers on accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503) is another law that protects the employment rights of job seekers and employees with disabilities. OFCCP enforces Section 503, which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability and also requires affirmative action in the hiring, placement and advancement of people with disabilities by federal contractors or subcontractors. Federal contractors with contracts in excess of $10,000 must take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities. Recent updates to Section 503 have strengthened these affirmative action requirements. Contractors that have a contract or sub-contract of $50,000 or more and 50 or more employees must have an actual affirmative action program or plan. The regulations also include a utilization goal of 7 percent. That goal is a "yardstick" against which federal contractors can measure their success in recruiting and hiring individuals with disabilities.
DOL’s Civil Rights Center (CRC) enforces the employment-related provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). Section 504 prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment and in their programs and activities. CRC also enforces Title II of the ADA as it to the labor- and workforce-related practices of state and local governments and other public entities. In addition, CRC enforces Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Section 188 Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Regulations, which prohibit disability-based discrimination by programs and activities that are offered as part of the public workforce development service delivery system. This includes job training for adults and youth and programs or activities provided by American Job Centers. See the Laws & Regulations subtopic for specific information on these laws.
U.S. Department of Labor Resources on Employer Responsibilities
- Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor
- Employment Rights: Who Has Them and Who Enforces Them?
- Information for Employers from the Job Accommodation Network
- Federal Contractor Compliance Advisor
- Building an Inclusive Workforce — A Four-Step Reference Guide to Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Employees with Disabilities
Other Resources on Employer Responsibilities
- Disability:IN - Tools and programs to bridge inclusive companies with people and organizations within the disability community.
- Accommodation Ideas Based on Disability
- ADA Frequently Asked Questions for Employers
- Recruitment & Hiring Resources from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion
- Questions & Answers about the Employment Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Employers' Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Stay-At-Work/Return-to-Work: Supporting Employees Who Experience Unexpected Illness or Disability
- Society for Human Resource Management’s Disability Employment Resource Page