Written by: Rachel Brauner
Enacted by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in areas such as employment, public accommodations, and access to services. Service members with disabilities have certain rights, aimed at ensuring equal opportunities, fair treatment, and support for a successful reintegration into civilian employment.
It is important to note that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) also provides certain protections and rights specifically for military service members, including reemployment rights after active duty. The ADA complements USERRA by ensuring that service members with disabilities have equal opportunities and access in the civilian workforce.
How ADA Applies to Service Members
- Employment Protections: The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, hiring, training, promotions, and termination. This protection extends to service members who may have acquired disabilities during their military service.
- Reasonable Accommodations: Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities, including service members, to enable them to perform essential job functions. These accommodations could include modifications to workspaces, equipment, schedules, or tasks, as long as they do not impose undue hardship on the employer.
- Job Reinstatement: Service members who have been on active duty are entitled to be reinstated to their civilian jobs, provided they meet certain criteria. This includes those with disabilities, ensuring they have the opportunity to return to their previous positions or equivalent roles.
- Non-Retaliation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating against service members with disabilities who assert their rights under the ADA or seek accommodations. This protection ensures that individuals can advocate for their rights without fear of negative consequences.
- Medical Examinations and Inquiries: Employers are limited in the medical examinations and inquiries they can make about job applicants and employees. These inquiries must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. For service members, this helps prevent unnecessary intrusion into their medical history.
- Association Discrimination: The ADA also protects individuals from discrimination based on their association with someone who has a disability. This could apply to service members who have family members with disabilities.
- Interactive Process: Employers and employees are encouraged to engage in an interactive process to determine appropriate accommodations. This collaborative approach helps ensure that accommodations are effective and tailored to the individual’s needs.
- Protections Beyond Employment: While the ADA primarily focuses on employment, it also covers access to public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications services, which can be important for service members in various aspects of their lives.
U.S. Department of Justice. ADA: Know Your Rights. https://archive.ada.gov/servicemembers_adainfo.html. Accessed on August 8, 2023.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Veterans and the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Employers. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/veterans-and-americans-disabilities-act-guide-employers. Accessed on August 8, 2023.
*Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/Pekic