A variety of federal laws exist protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment. Many states also have laws to protect against discrimination in employment based on disability, and some of these state laws provide even greater protection than under federal law. The information and resources on this page only concern federal laws which prohibit discrimination in employment based on disability. Other information on state law protecting individuals with disabilities may be available from your state government.
The relevant laws which may apply in a specific case will depend on the type of employer (state, local, federal, private), size of the employer, and whether the employer receives federal assistance.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Covering Private, State and Local Employers
Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability for employers who employ at least 15 employees each working day for at least 20 or more weeks in a year.
Current ADA Definitions [PDF] [Word] and ADA Amendments Act. See the Georgetown University Law School tracked changes to the original ADA after the amendments, and the E.E.O.C. notice on the ADA Amendments Act.
Current ADA Title V (Misc. Provisions) Statute: 42 U.S.C. § 12201 et seq.[PDF] [Word] Title V contains provisions dealing with retaliation for asserting rights under the ADA, drug and alcohol abuse, attorneys fees, and other miscellaneous provisions.
Title I prior to the ADA Amendments Act; Title V prior to the ADA Amendments Act.
IMPORTANT: Certain Provisions Changed or Not Effective After December 31, 2008 but applicable to discrimination which occurred on or prior to that date.
Federal Regulations:29 C.F.R. Part 1630 and 29 C.F.R Part 1640
IMPORTANT: The E.E.O.C. will revise the ADA regulations to reflect changes made by the ADA Amendments Act. New proposed regulations will be issued the week of September 21, 2009. See the E.E.O.C.notice on the ADA Amendments Act and the proposed regulations.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for interpreting and establishing regulations for Title I of the ADA. The regulations in Part 1630 contain the EEOC interpretations and implantation of Title I of the ADA, while Part 1640 deals with the investigation of charges of employment discrimination under both the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
EEOC Interpretive Guidance Appendix to ADA Regulations
IMPORTANT: The E.E.O.C. will revise this Guidance to reflect the changes made by the ADA Amendments Act when new regulations are finalized.
The EEOC has developed additional guidance addressing the ADA regulatory requirements contained as an appendix to the regulations. The Interpretive Guidance may be found after 29 C.F.R. § 1630.16.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, Applicable to Employment
Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covering the Federal Government. An individual must meet the same definition of disability as under the ADA in-order to be covered under Section 501.
Federal Regulations: 29 C.F.R. Part 1614
Section 503 & 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers employers who receive federal assistance. An individual must meet the same definition of disability as under the ADA in-order to be covered under Sections 503 or 504.
Section 503 requires that all federal contracts in excess of $10,000 (including sub-contracts) contain a provision requiring that the entity take affirmative steps to employ individuals with disabilities.
Section 504 protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment by entities receiving federal assistance. Section 504 also prohibits any public or private entity, including state and local government agencies, from discriminating against an individual with a disability in terms of participating in, or benefiting from, the program or activity for which the federal assistance supports. For further information on Section 504, see the general TASC webpage on the ADA/Section 504. [P&A/CAP Advocates Only]
The employment provisions of Title I of the ADA incorporates the enforcement and relief provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the compensatory and punitive damages provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, and national origin.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Statute: 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-4, -5, -6, -8, -9 [PDF] [Word]These provisions include the EEOC Powers and Procedures, Right to Bring a Case in Federal Court after completion of the EEOC process, and Injunctive and Equitable Relief from discrimination (including back- pay, lost benefits, re-hiring, and front-pay).
Federal Regulations: 29 C.F.R. Part 1601
Civil Rights Act of 1991 Statute: 42 U.S.C. § 1981a [PDF] [Word] This provision allows a court to award Compensatory and Punitive Damagesfor violation of Title I of the ADA. Damages are subject to a cap based on the size of the employer. Punitive damages are only available where the employer engaged in a discriminatory practice with malice or reckless indifference to a right under Title I of the ADA. Compensatory and punitive damages are not available in cases involving the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation in employment where the employer made a good faith effort to identify and provide a reasonable accommodation.
Section 5 to the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which applies in certain wage discrimination cases, incorporates the protections of the Act to the ADA and certain provisions of Title V of the Rehabilitation Act.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)The EEOC is the federal administrative agency responsible for investigating claims of discrimination against employers. A person who claims discrimination for violation of Title I of the ADA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or certain other federal anti-discrimination statutes must first file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and follow the agency’s process before filing a claim in federal court. (Individuals who are only claiming a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not have to file a complaint with the EEOC.) The EEOC maintains a Disability Discrimination webpage directly related to disability discrimination in employment, and provides an Interpretive Guidance to the ADA Regulations as an appendix found after 29 C.F.R. § 1630.16.
EEOC Policy Guidance on the ADA and other Federal Disability Laws The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has developed a variety of policy guidance documents to assist employers and individuals with disabilities understand their obligations and rights under the ADA and other federal laws. All policy guidance documents are available on the EEOC website. Listed below are direct links to important EEOC guidance documents relevant to disability and employment:
Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA (as revised October 2002)
Employment Tests and Selection Procedures (December 2007)
Policy Guidance on Executive Order 13164: Establishing Procedures To Facilitate the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation (relevant to Federal Employment) (October 2000) and Questions and Answers on Guidance Document
Related EEOC Policy Guidance on Caregivers Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities (May 2007) and Questions and Answers on Guidance Document
Other EEOC Basic Resources on the ADA In addition to Policy Guidance Documents, the EEOC has produced other resources on either specific topics or in less technical terms explaining the rights and obligations under the ADA. The following are links to several of these resources. Other resource documents may be found on the right-hand sidebar of the EEOC Disability Discrimination Page:
Other Publications and Resources
Employment Publications (Q&As and Fact Sheets) [P&A/CAP Advocates Only]
TASC Conference Handouts and Resources [P&A/CAP Advocates Only]
P&A/CAP Employment Docket [P&A/CAP Advocates Only]