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Rights of employees with disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that protects people with disabilities against discrimination. The law covers employment and the workplace, including:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Training
  • Pay
  • Promotions
  • Benefits
  • Leave

Learn about what a disability is (according to the ADA) and see examples of disabilities

Job rights

  • You have the right to ask for reasonable accommodation when you apply for and after you get a job.
  • You cannot be discriminated against because of a disability when you’re applying for a job and at work.
  • You can take leave (time off from work) if your disability gets worse or you get sick.
  • People also can’t bother you at work because of your disability, and an employer can’t fire or punish you for asking for your ADA rights.

Reasonable accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is a change to:

  • How a person does a job
  • The place where a person works
  • The way things are usually done

If you ask for reasonable accommodation, in most circumstances, your employer needs to comply. You need to be able to do the job you want or were hired to do with or without it.

Examples

  • Changes to the building where you work like putting in a ramp, or making a work area or restroom bigger
  • A sign language interpreter for meetings or trainings if you have a hearing disability
  • A computer program to read what’s on your screen
  • Braille or audio files if you are blind or have low vision
  • Computer tools like a special mouse or speech-to-text software if you have arthritis or limited use of your hands
  • A quieter workspace or headphones to make it less noisy if you have trouble with focus, concentration, or sensory overload
  • Writing down instructions or a visual checklist if you have a hard time remembering the order of things or doing tasks with several steps
  • Allowing for a different work schedule or time off for you to get treatment for a disability or to train a service animal

If you aren't sure what accommodation you might need, you can get some ideas from the Job Accommodation Network.

Asking for reasonable accommodation

If you think you need accommodation, you’ll need to ask for one. You can ask for one at any time, even before you start working somewhere. Learn more about the dos and don'ts of disclosing a disability.

When you ask your employer for accommodation, you’ll need to let them know you need it because of your disability. You do not need to complete a special form or use certain words.

For example, if you use a wheelchair and it does not fit under your desk at work, you should tell your supervisor. This is a request for reasonable accommodation.

A doctor’s note asking for time off because of a disability or saying you can work but need a different work schedule because of a disability is also a request for reasonable accommodation.

After you ask for reasonable accommodation

Once you ask for an accommodation, your employer should talk with you about how the accommodation will happen. You and your employer should work together to find an accommodation that works.

They don’t have to give you the exact accommodation you ask for, but it needs to be reasonable. If it costs too much or is too hard for your employer to do, they may talk to you about something else that might work instead. It needs to allow you to do the same job that people without disabilities can do.

If your employer doesn’t know about your disability, they may ask you to get documentation from your doctor. It should say you have a disability and give reasons why you need reasonable accommodation.

Get help

If you think your job rights have been violated, contact the nearest office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is a government agency that helps people get their job rights. They will help you figure out if you should file a charge of discrimination against your employer.

Ask us

If you have questions about your rights as an employee, you can ask us.

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