ADA prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions with 15 or more employees from discriminating against qualified employees with disabilities. An employer is prohibited from discriminating against persons with disabilities in hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training and other benefits related to employment. According to the ADA, a person with a disability has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment. The ADA protects employees with disabilities prior to initial employment and employees that develop disabilities while employed by the employer.
In addition to prohibition against unlawful employment practices, the employer must also make “reasonable accommodations” for qualified employees who can perform “essential functions” of the job. A reasonable accommodation may consist of making existing facilities readily accessible to persons with disabilities or modifying equipment, training examinations, and policies, or requiring readers or interpreters. However, an employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make accommodations.
The Supreme Court held in Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama et al. v. Garrett et al. (2000) that suits in federal court by state employees to recover money damages by reason of the State’s failure to comply with Title I of the ADA are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Essentially, the court ruling held that state employers are not bound by the ADA. Another recent Supreme Court ruling, Ella Williams v. Toyota (2001) also restricted the definitions of a person with a disability by adding that the disability must be in one or more major life activity which prevents the person “from performing tasks that are of central importance to most people’s daily lives.” The United States Supreme Court, with this ruling, attempted to clarify the broad language of the ADA to more precisely define when a person is to be considered disabled as opposed to impaired.