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American with Disabilities Act (ADA) what do I need to know?

Recently on our forum a user asked, “I have recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I understand that legally the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects me from employment discrimination. What else do I need to know about my rights?” If you have recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease you may not fully understand the extent to which your symptoms might interfere with your ability to perform your job. Your ability to continue to work may also depend on what type of job you currently perform. For example, if you do physical labor you might find rather quickly that you have difficulty balancing or climbing a ladder. Sitting at a desk and typing, however, may be less strenuous, allowing you to remain employed for a longer period of time.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by the United States Congress to offer protections to employees and job applicants who are disabled in all aspects of employment including hiring, pay, promotion, and firing. What do I need to understand about the ADA?
  1. The ADA specifically applies to employers who have 15 more employees.
  2. Under the law the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation. The Act defines reasonable accommodation as a modification or adjustment that can be made which allows the employee to do their job. The employee does not necessarily get to decide what is considered a reasonable accommodation.
  3. The employer does not have to provide the accommodation if it will create an undue hardship. An undue hardship is defined as a modification which is too expensive or too difficult for the business to make. Although this is subjective, the EEOC will expect larger companies with greater resources to be able to provide greater accommodations for their employees.
  4. The ADA specifically addresses what is considered a disability. For example, an employee will be considered disabled if they have a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or a major bodily functions (such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions).”
  5. The ADA defines which employees are covered under the law. Specifically, the law covers workers who are defined as qualified, which means they are capable of performing the essential duties of the job.

Should I tell my employer about my condition?

Whether or not to tell your employer about your condition is a very personalized decision. Although your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for you to complete your work that do not cause undue hardship for them, if you are no longer physically or mentally capable of performing your job and an accommodation will not help, at some point you will need to talk to your employer. Bottom Line: Some individuals can continue to work for years after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Others find that they have to quit work after one or two years. Whether or not you can continue to work needs to be discussed with your doctor and potentially negotiated with your employer. Recent blog: