Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

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Definition: A federal law enacted in 1990 that makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to refuse to hire qualified people with disabilities if making "reasonable accommodations" would enable the person to carry out the duties of the job .

While the law is unclear on exactly how far an employer must go to accommodate a person with disabilities--anything from making physical changes to the workplace or reallocating certain responsibilities--what is clear is that it's the applicant's responsibility to tell the employer about the disability. Employers aren't allowed to ask whether an applicant has a disability or a history of health problems. However, after the applicant has been given a written or verbal explanation of job duties, you may then ask whether he or she can adequately perform those duties or would need some type of accommodation.

For further clarification, read the Questions and Answers: Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act document, which is available online from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at


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