The Idaho Human Rights Act and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit employment discrimination against persons with disabilities. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the law.
Who is Protected?
A “disability” is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, doing manual tasks, or learning, as well as major bodily functions such as circulatory, endocrine or the immune system. A person is protected who:
- Has a disability or
- Has a record of a disability or
- Is regarded by others as having an actual or perceived impairment.
The definition of “disability” is to be interpreted in favor of broad coverage of individuals under the ADA.
Who Must Comply With The Anti-Discrimination Law?
All employers with five or more workers, any government entity regardless of size, a contractor or subcontractor for the state and their agents must comply. In addition, employment agencies and labor organizations must not discriminate against persons with disabilities.
What Are An Employer’s Obligations?
An employer may not discriminate against an otherwise qualified worker or applicant with a disability who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. All phases of the employment relationship are covered, such as: hiring decisions, hours of work, wage rate, reasons for discipline and separations.
What is a Reasonable Accommodations?
An employer has an obligation to attempt a reasonable accommodation to enable the employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.
Accommodations are adjustments to work assignments or work sites that allow the employee with a disability to do his or her job.
What Are Examples Of Reasonable Accommodations?
- Making the worksite accessible to a person who uses a wheelchair.
- Raising or lowering a work table.
- Restructuring a job.
- Reassignment of the worker to a vacant position.
- Installing an amplifier for a telephone used by a hearing-impaired worker.
- Modifying work schedules, particularly allowing someone to receive medical treatment.
What Kind Of Screening Can An Employer Do?
When interviewing applicants, an employer should NOT ask questions about a person’s health, medical history or whether he or she has ever filed a worker’s compensation claim.
Applicants should NOT be excluded from a job because of generalizations. Any medical standard or employment policy which automatically excludes entire groups of people (such as all people with high blood pressure, diabetes or back problems) is suspect.
It is permissible to ask if an applicant is able to perform the specific duties of the job in question with or without an accommodation.
What Are The Obligations Of The Person With A Disability?
A worker seeking an accommodation must cooperate with the employer in considering various options. An employer is NOT required to provide the “best” accommodation or the one most desired by the employee so long as the one chosen is “effective.”
Are There Exceptions To This Law?
Yes. An employer is not obligated to employ a person whose disability makes him or her a serious threat to their own health or safety or that of others. The burden of proving this threat is on the employer.
What If A Person With A Disability Is Unable To Do A Job Even After Accommodations Have Been Made?
Employers are not expected to use any workers, with a disability or not, who cannot perform their jobs.
Does This Law Make Good Economic Sense?
Yes. One study found that 50 percent of job accommodations for workers with disabilities cost under $50. The law helps people with disabilities attain jobs for which they are perfectly qualified. This, in turn, allows them to be self-supporting and full contributors to our state and local communities.