5 Myths To Dismiss: The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

by | Jan 23, 2018 | Blog

  • Christina Reising

It’s been a few weeks since the confetti was swept up and 2018 sunglasses went on sale, but the excitement of the new year has remained.

New Year’s is a time of anticipation, filled with curiosity over what goals you’ll achieve and milestones you’ll pass in the coming months.

As business owners, it’s especially thrilling to imagine all the growth that will come to your business as you work to accomplish your new strategic plan.

With the endless possibilities of 2018 still on your mind, now is a great time to freshen up your understanding of the important laws your business needs to comply with this year.

We love helping business owners ensure their organizations are running efficiently and effectively, so we thought we’d help you review one of the most important (and frequently misunderstood!) employer policies: the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that safeguards individuals with disabilities to help them experience the same rights and opportunities in the workplace as other employees.

Below we share 5 common myths about the ADA, along with a few helpful resources, from the U.S. Department of Labor. For additional information about the ADA, read the full article on the U.S. Department of Labor website here.

Keeping your business compliant with laws like the ADA can be overwhelming and time consuming. If you’d prefer a professional team of skilled, HR experts to keep your business compliant for you, give us a call at 877-753-0970 or contact us on our website here.

5 Myths To Dismiss: The Americans With Disabilities Act

Myth 1: Under the ADA, employers must give people with disabilities special privileges, known as accommodations.

Fact: Accommodations are not equivalent to special privileges.

Reasonable accommodations are intended to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have rights in employment equal — not superior — to those of individuals without disabilities.

A reasonable accommodation is a modification, not a special privilege.

Under the ADA, modifications to a job, work environment or the way work is performed allow an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, and enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals in the workplace.

Myth #2: The ADA places a financial burden on small businesses that cannot afford to make accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Fact: The ADA aims to protect small businesses from severe financial hardship.

Businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not covered by the employment provisions of the ADA.

For employers required to follow the ADA guidelines, they do not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that would cause an “undue hardship” to their business.

The ADA defines undue hardships as actions requiring significant difficulty or expense based upon factors like an organization’s size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.

Myth #3: The ADA is frequently misused by people with vague complaints or diagnoses.

Fact: False complaints might be on the front page, but their dismissal is often unadvertised.

While claims by people with false or minor conditions may get the media spotlight, the reality is that these complaints are usually dismissed.

If an individual files a complaint of discriminatory treatment, denial of accommodation or harassment, and does not have a condition that meets the ADA definition of a disability, the complaint is dismissed.

The ADA is most often used for people with true disabilities who need reasonable modifications to be successful in their job.

Myth #4: The employee completed their 12 weeks of FMLA leave, but isn’t released to return to work, so now they can be fired.

Fact: Extended leave might be required if it’s a reasonable accommodation.

The ADA requires that employers make exceptions to their policies, including leave policies, in order to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities.

Although employers are allowed to have leave policies that establish the maximum amount of leave an employer will provide, they may have to provide leave beyond this amount as a reasonable accommodation.

Unless the employer can show that granting additional leave will cause an undue hardship, they may have to do so for employees who require it because of a disability.

Myth #5: The employee has not been employed for a year so they are not eligible for FMLA or six to eight weeks of leave after child birth.

Fact: Employers must enable employees with disabilities to work, even if it requires adjustments to existing policies.

Although requests for disability related leave often fall under existing employer policies, the employer is still obligated to provide individuals with disabilities access to those policies on equal terms as similarly situated employees.

Employers are not required to provide paid leave beyond their paid leave policy, but they must consider providing unpaid leave to an employee with a disability, as a reasonable accommodation, if the employee requires it.

Leave is a reasonable accommodation when it enables an employee to return to work following their period of leave.

Resources to Assist Employers:

Navigating all the components of the ADA can feel overwhelming, but there are many resources available to help you understand your responsibilities as an employer. Check out the list of links below, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor, for more information!

If you’d prefer a professional team of skilled, HR experts to ensure your business is compliant for you, give us a call at 877-753-0970 or contact us on our website here.

Additional Resources:

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

1-800-526-7234 (V/TTY)

JAN is a free, confidential service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy that provides individualized accommodation solutions and technical assistance on the ADA.

JAN can address areas like:

-Accommodation options and low-cost solutions

-Hiring, retaining and promoting qualified employees with disabilities

-Employer responsibilities under the ADA

-Accessibility issues, including accessible technology

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

1-800-669-4000; 1-800-669-6820

The EEOC enforces the ADA’s employment provisions. The section of its web site titled “Disability Discrimination” provides access to numerous publications, including several specifically designed to answer employer questions and concerns.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ADA Home Page

800-514-0301 (V); 800-514-0383

The ADA Home Page includes many excellent resources for employers. The “ADA Business Connection” section of the site even includes business briefs and tax incentive information.

Americans with Disabilities Act National Network


The Americans with Disabilities Act National Network, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, consists of 10 regional centers and an ADA Knowledge Translation Center which provide ADA information, training and technical assistance across the nation.

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