As a business owner or manager, you know that there are many rules and regulations that may apply to your company. You must follow a number of different state and federal laws in regard to employee hiring and retainment. As an employer, you need to understand the laws and how they apply to your business. One of the laws that you need to know about is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects those with disabilities. The purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities are provided the same rights and opportunities as other citizens. Disability rights are considered civil rights and thus they cannot be taken away. ADA rights extend to many areas of life including public transportation, telecommunications, public accommodations, and employment, among others. Those with disabilities must be afforded the rights provided by law.
Employer’s ADA Requirements
Employers cannot discriminate against an applicant or employee because of his or her disability. An employer may not deny a promotion strictly based on a person’s disability. As long as a person is qualified for a job, you cannot deny them the position because they are disabled. Employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who have disabilities. For example, you may need to restructure a job, make equipment modifications, or make other accommodations unless doing so would pose “undue hardship.”
Must All Employers Comply?
In Wisconsin, all employers with 15 or more employees are required by law to comply with ADA laws.* This means that you must take steps necessary and possible to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. You will need to ensure that your facility has wheelchair access to all areas, that the bathrooms are equipped for those with disabilities, and that the work environment, such as machines, can be accessed by all employees. In addition to compliance for employees, businesses must make sure that if they have any public areas, those are also ADA-compliant.
Public Areas of Your Business
If your business is open to the public, you must follow the ADA laws and guidelines. This applies to restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and any other places that are available to the public. You must provide auxiliary services to those with disabilities including vision and hearing impairments as well as other disabilities. You must provide these services as long as it is not a “burden” to your business.
Additionally, you need to remove any barriers that could prevent access, such as is required for a wheelchair. If you cannot make these accommodations, you must provide alternate ways to achieve the same result. If your business offers phone services to the general public, you must provide telephone relay services, such as TTY or similar services for the deaf. New construction should provide access for the disabled.
*Not only is ADA compliance required, but state statutes (including Wisconsin) similarly prohibit disability discrimination and can be broader in some respects than the ADA.
To learn more, contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online.