Definitions of ADA Terms

The following are definitions of the legal terms used in the ADA which are underlined in the above text.

Covered entity - Currently, Title I of the ADA applies to all private employers with at least 15 employees and all public employers except the U.S. government. The ADA also covers employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees. None of these organizations are allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities. Religious organizations are also covered although they may give preference in employment to members of their religion. The only employers not covered are Indian tribes, the U.S. government and tax exempt private membership clubs.

Disability - The ADA defines disability broadly covering people in three categories:

bulletpeople who currently have a disability,
bulletpeople who have a history of disability, and
bulletpeople who are perceived as disabled by others whether or not they actually have a disability.

A disability is an impairment, either mental or physical, that limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include the ability to care for yourself, learn, work, walk, see, hear, speak, breathe, or maintain social relationships, among others. In the EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the ADA and People with Psychiatric Disabilities, examples of the definition of psychiatric disabilities, also known as mental illnesses, are described. Go to the Summary of this Guidance on this page, or link directly to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to get a full copy of the text.

The ADA also covers past history of alcoholism and drug abuse if the person is no longer currently using illegal substances. Alcoholism is covered as a disability if a person is still abusing alcohol, although it does not prohibit an employer from taking disciplinary action for unsatisfactory performance or failure to comply with company policy.

The third category of disability covered by the ADA protects people who are believed to have a disability whether or not they actually have one. Some examples of people covered in this category include a person who may have been hospitalized for depression as a teenager, or a person receiving therapy or medication to control some condition that is not disabling.

The ADA specifies conditions that are not covered, including kleptomania, pyromania, compulsive gambling, all sexual behavior disorders and current illegal use of drugs. Homosexuality is also not covered by the ADA unless the employer refuses to hire such a person under the assumption they will bring AIDS into the workplace.

Essential functions -The minimum required duties and abilities necessary to perform the tasks of the job. Essential functions of a job can often be determined by writing accurate job descriptions to determine which tasks are a major part of the job and which are not. Factors to consider include the percentage of time spent performing those duties, the qualifications required to do these tasks, and whether the job exists in order to have these duties performed.

Qualified individual with a disability - Any individual with a disability who has the ability, skills and education to perform the essential functions of a job either with or without reasonable accommodations.

Physical or mental limitations - Difficulties in functioning or performing tasks that are due to the disability or medical condition. For example, someone with schizophrenia may hear voices (a symptom of the medical condition) which may interfere with concentrating on a task for long periods of time.

Reasonable accommodations - Changes or adjustments in a work or school site, program, or job that makes it possible for an otherwise qualified employee or student with a disability to perform the duties or tasks required.

Undue hardship - Excessive financial burden or interference with the nature or operation of the business. Factors considered in determining undue hardship include the overall financial resources of the organization, the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the impact of providing the accommodation on the particular site or operation of the business.

Go back to Title I of the ADA.

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