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Defining the relationship between small business and the ADA

One of the most significant pieces of legislation in terms of providing equal access to employment opportunities is the Americans with Disabilities Act. Generally speaking, the federal law compels employers to open employment opportunities to those living with a disability by providing reasonable accommodations.

Of course, this employee protection provides a great deal of security to individuals who might otherwise be passed over for employment or terminated simply because employers do not want to be flexible.

Knowing that small businesses have different resources and needs than larger employers, it may be worthwhile to examine how the ADA applies in relation to a company’s size.

According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the ADA applies to any business with 15 or more employees. This is based on the idea that businesses of this size will have the resources available to provide for an employee’s unique needs.

At the same time, the federal law also provides an exception. Employers do not have to make reasonable accommodations for something that would cause “undue hardship.” An undue hardship is something that would pose a significant burden on a business relative to its size.

Keeping all of this in mind, however, the Office of Disability Employment Policy notes that a great majority of accommodations are not burdensome for employers. In fact, the federal agency points out that most workers living with a disability do not require accommodation. And for those who do need accommodation, a vast majority cost less than $500.

The overall take away from the law is that it provides some exceptions for smaller employers. On balance, however, it’s generally not that difficult to provide an accommodation for employees in need. As such, employers should abide by the law and do what’s necessary to be fair to workers. Workplaces can benefit from hiring the most qualified applicants and welcoming a variety of perspectives.

Source: The Office of Disability Employment Policy, “Employers and the ADA: Myths and Facts,” accessed July 1, 2014

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