Organizations accommodating people with disabilities

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 ("Amendments Act" or "ADAAA"), is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.Individuals with disabilities include those who have impairments that substantially limit a major life activity, have a record (or history) of a substantially limiting impairment, or are regarded as having a disability.At other times, an employer may ask for medical information when it has received reliable information from someone else (for example, a family member or co-worker) indicating that the employee may have a medical condition that is causing performance problems.Often, however, poor job performance is unrelated to a medical condition and generally should be handled in accordance with an employer's existing policies concerning performance.After an employer has obtained basic medical information from all individuals who have received job offers, it may ask specific individuals for more medical information if it is medically related to the previously obtained medical information.

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(See "Keeping Medical Information Confidential.") Example 1: An applicant for a position as an office clerk voluntarily discloses to the employer that she has an intellectual disability and sometimes needs to be reminded of her duties.

Once an employee is on the job, his actual performance is the best measure of ability to do the job. When may an employer ask an employee whether her intellectual disability, or some other medical condition, may be causing her performance problems?

Generally, an employer may ask disability-related questions or require an employee to have a medical examination when it knows about a particular employee's medical condition, has observed performance problems, and reasonably believes that the problems are related to a medical condition.

Example 3: A mailroom clerk with an intellectual disability and attention deficit disorder who has performed his job successfully for five years starts to make mistakes in sorting and delivering letters and packages. The supervisor observed these changes soon after the employee moved into his brother's house.

The supervisor can ask the employee why his performance has declined and may explore ways to ensure that mail is not misdirected, but may not ask him questions about his intellectual disability unless there is objective evidence that his poor performance is related to his disability. Are there any other instances when an employer may ask an employee with an intellectual disability about his condition? An employer also may ask an employee about an intellectual disability when it has a reasonable belief that the employee will be unable to safely perform the essential functions of his job because of his disability.

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