Equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
In the past, some employers have requested information about an applicant's physical or mental condition in order to exclude applicants with disabilities before their ability to perform the job was fairly evaluated. To stop and prevent this discriminatory practice from occurring, Congress enacted the American With Disabilities Act to ensure that qualified disabled individuals receive fair and equal opportunity in all areas of employment. The law specifically prohibits employers from asking disability-related questions in an interview setting or in an employment application. They also may not conduct any type of medical examination until after a conditional job offer is made to the applicant. Employers, however, may ask about an applicant's ability to perform a specific job function during an interview. For example, an employer may state the physical requirements of a job and ask if an applicant can satisfy those requirements. If physical agility tests and physical fitness tests are required in the hiring process, the employer must be prepared to demonstrate that the test is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Keep in mind that all employees or applicants who anticipate the need for special accommodations have the responsibility of asking the employer to fulfill their request. The Americans With Disability Act requires all employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees or qualified disabled applicants to enable them to perform the essential functions of a job, unless the employer would suffer an undue financial hardship as a result of the accommodation.

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