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Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA))



The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive Federal nondiscrimination law designed to remove barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from accessing and enjoying the same opportunities available to people without disabilities. The law applies specifically to employment, state and local government services, telecommunications, and businesses that are public accommodations or commercial facilities. Title I is the section of the ADA that addresses employment, and it prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, pre-employment screening, hiring, compensation, benefits, training, layoffs, termination and promotions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the Federal agency responsible for enforcing the provisions of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act with respect to private employers and State and local government employers that have 15 or more employees. The U.S. Department of Justice, through Title II, may enforce the employment provisions of Title I as they pertain to State and local government employees. The Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has the authority to investigate some Title I complaints against private employers who are also Federal contractors and/or subcontractors subject to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Who is Affected by Title I

Covered Employers: Title I covers private employers and State and local government employers with 15 or more employees (including part-time employees) working for them for 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. It also applies to employment agencies, labor unions, and joint labor management committees regardless of the number of employees.

Protected Individuals: Title I protects qualified individuals with disabilities, including applicants, employees, those referred by employment agencies, union members, and apprentices. Title I also extends certain protections to individuals who face discrimination based on their relationship or association with a person with a disability. (For example, an applicant or employee who has a family member or roommate with a disability.) Title I protections for this group do not include a right to reasonable accommodations.

Employer Responsibilities Under Title I

Title I of the ADA and its implementing regulations include specific requirements for covered employers. Listed below are the key employer responsibilities under Title I:

  • Nondiscrimination. Covered employers cannot discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in any of their employment and personnel practices, including recruitment, job application procedures, hiring, compensation, promotion and career advancement, demotion or termination, job assignments, training, leaves of absence, fringe benefits, and all other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. See 29 CFR 1630.4.
  • Reasonable Accommodations. Covered employers must provide reasonable accommodations when requested for people with disabilities in all aspects of employment, so that qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities may participate in the application process, perform essential job functions, and have equal opportunity to the rights and privileges of employment. Employers are not required to provide a requested accommodation if that accommodation would impose an undue hardship on their operation. See 29 CFR 1630.9.
  • Nondiscrimination in Selection Criteria and the Administration of Tests. Covered employers must not use employment selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities or a class of individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability, unless the employer can show that a particular selection criterion is job-related to the position at issue and required by business necessity. If a particular selection criterion is required by business necessity, an employer may have to provide reasonable accommodation if that would enable the applicant to meet the criterion. Covered employers also have a duty to provide reasonable accommodation so that an employment test accurately measures an applicant's skills, aptitude, or whatever the test purports to measure rather than the individual's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills (unless the test is designed to measure such skills). See 29 CFR 1630.10 and 29 CFR 1630.11.
  • Medical Examinations and Pre-employment Inquiries. Covered employers must ensure that all medical examinations and pre-employment medical inquiries are limited to those allowed under the law. Before extending a job offer, covered employers generally may not require medical examinations or make disability-related inquiries (questions that are likely to reveal whether an applicant is an individual with a disability or the nature or severity of a disability). Employers may, however, make pre-offer inquiries into the ability of an applicant to perform job-related functions, and/or may ask an applicant to describe or to demonstrate how, with or without reasonable accommodation, the applicant will be able to perform the essential functions of the job.

    Employers may require a medical examination or make a disability-related inquiry after making an offer of employment but before the applicant begins his or her duties, and may condition the employment offer on the results of such an inquiry or examination, if all entering employees into the same job category are subjected to such an examination or inquiry, regardless of disability. If a job offer is withdrawn because of a disability, the selection criteria used must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. In addition, an employer may require a medical examination or make a disability-related inquiry of a current employee if the examination or inquiry is job-related and consistent with business necessity. See 29 CFR 1630.13 and 29 CFR 1630.14.

    Medical information must be kept confidential. This includes requiring that such information be collected and stored separately from other personnel information. Title I of the ADA permits employers to disclose medical or disability-related information about a particular individual to specifically-listed persons or entities for specific reasons (i.e., supervisors and managers, first aid and safety personnel, government officials, selecting officials, state workers' compensation offices and second injury funds, workers' compensation insurance carriers in accordance with state workers' compensation laws, and insurance carriers who require such information for the development and administration of benefit plans). See 29 CFR 1630.14(f) and EEOC's Enforcement Guidance: Preemployment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations Under the ADA.
  • Notice/Posters. Covered employers must post a specific notice describing the Title I employment provisions and make this information available in accessible formats so that job applicants and employees with all types of disabilities can access the information. See 29 CFR 1601.30. EEOC provides, free of charge, a poster that meets this requirement as well as similar notice requirements for the other Federal employment discrimination laws. Please refer to the EEOC website.
  • Recordkeeping. Covered employers must maintain certain records. Under Title I, any personnel or employment record made or kept by an employer must be maintained by the employer for a period of one year from the date of the making of the record or the personnel action, whichever occurs later. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, requests for reasonable accommodation, application forms submitted by applicants and other records having to do with hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer, lay-off or termination, rates of pay or other terms of compensation, and selection for training or apprenticeship. When a charge of discrimination has been filed against an employer, the employer must maintain all personnel records relevant to the charge or action until final disposition of the charge or action. See 29 CFR 1602.14.
  • Retaliation, Coercion, Interference, or Intimidation. Covered employers must not retaliate against individuals who oppose employment practices that discriminate based on disability or who file discrimination charges, testify, or participate in any way in an ADA investigation, proceeding, or litigation. In addition, covered employers must not coerce, interfere with, or intimidate any individual in the exercise or utilization of, or because that individual aided or encouraged any other individual in the exercise of, any right granted or protected by Title I of the ADA. See 29 CFR 1630.12.

Title I and Other Federal Nondiscrimination Laws

Most employers are covered by more than one Federal law prohibiting discrimination against job applicants and employees with disabilities. For example, many government contractors are covered by both Title I of the ADA and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The general principles underlying all the Federal disability nondiscrimination laws are consistent (and, in many cases, identical), and employers who carry out their responsibilities under Title I will not be violating the requirements of these other nondiscrimination laws.

Compliance with the employer obligations of Title I will actually satisfy many of the requirements of other Federal nondiscrimination laws and their implementing regulations. However, employers should be aware that some of the other nondiscrimination laws have additional employer obligations. For example, although both Title I of the ADA and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act require employers to provide reasonable accommodations, Section 503 also requires that covered employers establish an Affirmative Action Program (AAP). Title I of the ADA does not require AAPs.

It is important to note that some state laws also mandate additional responsibilities for employers or provide additional protections for job applicants and employees with disabilities. Employers need to be familiar with all of the disability nondiscrimination requirements that apply to their business or organization.


Applicable Law and Regulations

Compliance Assistance Information
The publications listed below comprise only a small sample of the ADA-related publications available from the EEOC.