The legal scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a mixture of rules and regulations imposed by the U.S. government to keep discrimination out of the workplace and the employment picture. This pertains to Title I of the ADA.
Title I has a place in the working society, but is subject to many variables and interpretations. An employer can and does have the right to inform a potential employee of the essential functions that are to be performed. These essential functions should be expected to be performed by the newly hired person within a specified period of time. The learning curve is dependent upon experience and the education of the applicant.
Written instructions should be placed in a book of job descriptions and performance evaluations and labeled accordingly. The larger-sized businesses (corporations) may also have the means to produce video instructions of the job(s) currently available. Corporations must ensure that what is produced in the video does not show any business secrets that are of the "let this be known and you are done working here" nature.
The small business owner would only benefit by having these job descriptions available in case of a potential disability discrimination claim. But does the small business owner have the means, legally or otherwise, to defend against an action which may be determined to be a waster of the civil and criminal court system's time and the taxpayer's money? Case law would set a precedent for and if such an action is justified. Judges have the authority to determine whether or not violations of the ADA are in the best interest of the American people as a whole. I believe that is why the law was put into place back when the first George Bush was President.
What was the "essential functions" of employment? Well, it depends on the job description duties and what can be reasonably expected for performance to be achieved. Say for example, an individual was hired as a general office worker having to type a maximum of 45 words per minute, file paperwork in the manner previously established by the organization, manually post accounts to a ledger and answer the company telephone. Nowadays, due to the nature of business, these demands are placed upon the "new hires" that would be actively contributing to the work force.
Wouldn't it be a pleasant surprise to find an employee capable of handling these duties instantly? Without question, these essential functions are usually dictated by an employer. How about a pill or medicine for this? Let's call it (the disease, not the cure) inaneitis. The cure for this dreaded disorder is remedied with seven simple words. Slow it down or errors will occur.
If a typewriter or the modern computer keyboard was at a level that caused difficulties for the employee to work (from a wheelchair), all that would need to be done is to raise the level of the keyboard. Provided it didn't create any undue hardship or expense to the employer. (You don't lower the floor.)
Filing cabinets would need to be at a height that could be reached by the disabled employee. Perhaps a laptop computer with printer could be purchased to post the information to the applicable accounts. Thus, learning to type would be a high priority. Learning to spell correctly doesn't appear to be a big deal. There is a built-in "spell it right" feature that most computers have. The basic math skills of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division also play a key role in the business world. Accuracy in hand-eye coordination is another key.
As with any business, answering the telephone is an essential part of customer service (and in most cases, a priority). Small businesses in many cases do not have a "switchboard operator." Therefore, the small business owner(s) are dependent upon one or two people to answer the telephone, process the call, send the caller to the correct department or take a message if the department (head) is not immediately available.
A portable mobile telephone headset might be purchased to make sure the telephone gets answered. Headsets are a wonderful thing. Not only does it allow a person to move about, but it also decreases neck injuries from holding the handset in the "cradle" of your neck.
An alternative to the headset might be a speakerphone. The difficulty of the speakerphone is that there may be a need for privacy and unless there is a sound-proof location that has acoustical barriers, the speakerphone is impractical.
Essential functions are to be performed with reasonable accommodations made, provided it does not create an undue hardship or expense to the employer.
It should also be noted that by making one's business more accessible (Title III), eligibility for tax credits (not to be considered as legal or accounting advice. Consult a professional) and deductions are possible.
Michael J. Henry is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.