The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law 33 years ago, remains an important piece of legislation employers need to understand to comply with its requirements.
The ADA is a federal civil rights law that bans discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Massachusetts has a state employment discrimination law, Chapter 151B of the Massachusetts General Laws.
The ADA and Chapter 151B both make it illegal for employers to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. But Chapter 151B includes some private employers and medical conditions not covered by the ADA. The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, while 151B covers those with six or more employees. Employers who don’t comply with the law can face stiff fines or lawsuits.
What you can and can’t do
The Massachusetts attorney general’s office has posted information about the state law on the state’s website. There you can see examples of what employers can and can’t do. Under Massachusetts law, employers may ask an applicant or employee about job-related functions, but not whether they have a disability or the extent of the disability. You can ask applicants whether they can lift a 50-pound bag four times a shift, for example, but you cannot ask whether they have a bad back.
Employers also are not permitted to require a candidate to undergo a medical examination before making a job offer. After offering employment, however, you may make the position contingent upon a medical exam if all new hires in the same job category are required to pass the same exam, or if the exam is needed to determine a reasonable accommodation.
Employment tests used to identify individuals with disabilities are prohibited unless they are strictly measures of a person’s ability to perform a necessary task of the position.
To comply with these laws, ensure your facility is physically accessible and your website can be used by people with disabilities. Websites also must comply with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that individuals with a disability must be able to use a website as effectively as those who do not have a disability.
Though ADA guidelines do not include website accessibility, websites generally follow Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):
- Navigation: Users must be able to navigate your website with a mouse, screen reader and keyboard.
- Content: Organize website content under headings and titles.
- Language: Use language that is identifiable by accessibility software.
Disabilities affecting accessibility to websites include blindness, color blindness, impaired hearing and seizures. But making your website accessible doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rebuild the site. Add-ons often are available to improve accessibility.
What steps can you take to be certain your business complies with state and federal laws protecting individuals with disabilities?
- Look at your job description to make sure it includes a physical description of the position.
- Undertake a true and honest assessment of inclusivity in your workplace.
- Know your industry and the roles employees fill in your business.
Be sure to consider remote workers with disabilities and determine whether they need any equipment from the office to enable them to do the job from home.
Protections for pregnant, nursing workers
New legislation increases federal protections for pregnant and nursing workers. In December, President Biden signed an omnibus spending bill into law that includes the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act).
The PWFA, which will take effect in June, requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants with temporary physical or mental limitations resulting from pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions.
Under the PWFA, as with the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless it causes an undue hardship. Employers had been required under federal law to make reasonable accommodations only when pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions would be deemed a disability under the ADA or the accommodations were being made for similarly employed nonpregnant workers.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), possible accommodations are:
- Increasing restroom breaks.
- Decreasing lifting requirements.
- Providing leave for workers who don’t qualify under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Providing additional equipment, such as a chair or stool, for an employee whose job requires standing.
Fair Labor Standards Act
The PUMP Act, which took effect immediately, upgrades a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that required employers to provide break time for nursing mothers who needed to pump milk for up to one year after the child’s birth. The law previously only applied to nonexempt workers – those who were eligible for overtime pay. The PUMP Act covers all employees – nonexempt and exempt.
The PUMP Act requires employers to provide a private space for pumping milk, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion by co-workers and the public. It does not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees if the law would create an undue hardship for the employer.
If you want to know more about making your website ADA-compliant, contact me at email@example.com and I’ll refer you to a member of my website team. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions about complying with federal and state laws concerning the employment of people with disabilities.
50+ Job Seekers workshops
The 50+ Job Seekers Networking Group’s workshops are free and virtual on Zoom.
Upcoming workshops this month are:
- Monday, Feb. 13, 10 to 11:30 a.m.: Interview Practice.
For good or bad, first impressions matter. When interviewing, you need to put your best foot forward and that takes practice.
- Do you have an interview coming up?
- Do you know how to respond to behavioral questions?
- Do you need suggestions on how to address gaps in employment?
Join us for answers to your questions about interviews and learn how to respond to a variety of questions that may be presented to you in an interview.
- Tuesday, Feb. 14, 10 to 11 a.m.: “Finding a Job When You Have Gaps in Your Work History.”
Are you job hunting? Do you have a gap in your work history? Have you been unemployed for a while?
If so, you are not alone. Despite the fact there is a worker shortage in many fields, there are still many people looking for work.
Join Cheryl Gelzer Alexis, Learning and Development Partner for MassHire South Shore Career Center, to learn how to present yourself to prospective employers in a way that highlights your skills, not your work history. We’ll discuss resumes, LinkedIn profiles and interviewing techniques that can help you secure your next job.
This event is offered by Encore Boston Network and co-presented by 50+ Job Seekers in Massachusetts.
Register at https://bit.ly/3DptMI7.
- Tuesday, Feb. 21, 10 to 11:30 a.m.: “LinkedIn – The Recruiter Perspective.”
Join us as we present a different perspective on improving your resume. While we won’t teach you directly how to write a LinkedIn profile, we will discuss what recruiters look for in yours, including:
- When do they take the time to view your profile?
- What are they looking for?
- What sections matter most to them?
This workshop will be facilitated by Ed Lawrence, a National Certified Online Profile Expert (NCOPE) who communicates regularly with recruiters to stay current with their methods.
- Thursday, Feb. 23, 2 to 3:30 p.m.: “An Afternoon at the Improv.”
Join us for a fun and different way of preparing for interviews and networking conversations. Improvisational theater is unplanned or unscripted, created spontaneously by the performers. In its purest form, the dialogue, action, story and characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds.
We’ll start with fun and simple improv that has nothing to do with interviewing or the job search. As we progress, we’ll mix in some crazy situations and more performers.
Why use Improv? It
- Allows you to be a more positive person.
- Makes you more creative.
- Helps you become a team player.
- Improves your listening skills.
- Assists you with big choices.
- Brings out your playful side.
- Lets you enjoy the moment.
If no registration link is provided, register for the workshops through 50+ Job Seekers of Massachusetts through your online registration/login account at https://50plusjobseekers.org/login/. If you haven’t registered, you will be asked to complete the registration form. If you have questions about the process, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The virtual doors open 15 minutes before each program starts.
Reach out to me
Contact me by downloading my digital business card by texting HRPRO to 21000 or emailing me at email@example.com.