As much as you want to create an open and welcoming environment in your workplace, you may find yourself becoming nervous when a person with a disability applies for a job. You certainly want to hire the best person for the position, and you have a general idea of how the Americans with Disabilities Act and Texas state laws protect employees and potential employees. Nevertheless, you may be uncertain of what is expected of you.
The purpose of the ADA and other laws is to protect qualified workers from exclusion from jobs simply because they have disabilities. If you focus on the abilities of the candidate instead of the disabilities, you will be better able to make a hiring decision that will benefit you and your new employee. However, there are some important factors to understand about the laws.
The ADA has a rather broad definition of a disability. Essentially, it is any impairment, whether physical or mental, that places limitations on a person's ability to participate in regular activities such as breathing, standing or walking. In other words, someone with a disability does not necessarily sit in a wheelchair or walk with a cane. In fact, you may not be able to discern the disabling condition just by looking at a person. Some conditions covered by the ADA include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Major depression
- History of drug or alcohol addiction
An applicant with these or other conditions may have the education and experience for the position but may need reasonable accommodations in order to perform the essential duties of the job.
Expectations for an employer
When someone with a physical or mental disability applies for a job at your business, you may not discriminate at any point, whether during the recruitment and hiring, assignments, promotions or terminations. Instead, the law requires you to provide an equal opportunity for all your employees to work and grow with the company without fear of exclusion or harassment.
This may include making any accommodations that would not be a hardship for you, your company or your other employees. An employee or job candidate cannot expect you to provide accommodations that are unreasonable, such as those that would be cost-prohibitive or would unduly increase the workload of other employees. If you find you must reject an otherwise qualified applicant because of unreasonable accommodation requests, you may wish to seek legal advice to protect yourself from a discrimination lawsuit.