One restaurant owner in Winter Haven has received an award from the Florida Vocational Rehabilitation program this week for his continued work to hire, promote, and mentor the careers of people with disabilities in the community. This restaurant is a shining example of the goals of the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, which put forth regulations to protect and empower job hunters with disabilities.
This award comes on the heels of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, which works to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities. Sal Virzi, the owner of Steak ’n’ Shake, told Bay News 9 that he tries to hire workers with mental or physical disabilities at his various restaurants. Virzi provides extra training to his employees with disabilities, a form of reasonable accommodation, which he believes is worth it.
"Do they call me, need more attention? Yes. But it's something that makes me feel good,” said Virzi to Bay News 9.
Clearly, more and more businesses are being conducted in a way that reflects the tenets of the ADA, which ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else in all areas of public life, including jobs.
For too long, people with disabilities were prevented from holding jobs they were qualified for simply because of discriminatory policies. Today, we look at the various ways that the ADA now empowers and protects people with disabilities while they search, apply, and interview for jobs.
Employers Cannot Ask You About Your Disability During the Interview Process
Under the ADA, employers cannot ask if you have a disability or ask any other questions that can reveal the existence of a disability during the interview, even if the disability is obvious. The type of questions prohibited during the interview process include:
- Do you have a disability that could interfere with your ability to perform the responsibilities of the job?
- How many days did you call out sick last year?
- Have you ever been treated for mental health issues?
- What prescription drugs are you taking?
Your employer may only ask these questions after a job offer is extended, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and only if these questions would be asked of any other applicant offered the job, regardless of disability.
Your Employer Cannot Withdraw a Job Offer Due to a Revealed Disability
While employers have the right to require a medical examination after a job offer is extended, they legally cannot withdraw their job offer because the results of the examination reveal that you have a disability. The job offer can only be withdrawn if the exam shows you absolutely cannot perform the essential responsibilities of the job even with reasonable accommodations provided, according to the EEOC.
Any Medical Information Shared With an Employer is Confidential
Those with disabilities, especially those with discreet or “invisible” disabilities like PTSD or chronic pain, often do not want medical information that they have shared with their employer to be spread throughout their workplace. The ADA requires strict confidentiality when private medical information is disclosed to an employer.
An employer may only share an employee’s medical information in very limited circumstances, including informing first aid personnel who may need to know about the person’s disability during emergency treatment, government officials investigating ADA compliance, and supervisors and managers who need to be aware of the disability to provide reasonable accommodation, according to the EEOC.
You Are Entitled to Reasonable Accommodation — At Any Time
If you have a disability, you are entitled to reasonable accommodation at your job, whether you ask for it when you start working or later down the line, as long as it does not place undue hardship on the employer. You simply need to ask, either verbally or in writing, for an adjustment or change to your work process due to a medical condition.
This will start an interactive process between you and your employer, during which you can work to identify accommodation solutions to allow you to perform all of your job responsibilities. Some forms of reasonable accommodation, according to the ADA, include:
- Adjusting work schedules
- Providing modified equipment
- Modifying training programs
- Providing qualified readers or interpreters
When Discrimination Still Happens
Despite the positive example set by Sal Virzi and other businesses in Winter Haven that endeavor to hire people with disabilities, there are still some companies that engage in discriminatory practices that violate the ADA.
If you believe you have been the victim of workplace discrimination on the basis of your disibility, we may be able to help. Read more to learn how the attorneys of our deaf and disability rights unit will fight on your behalf against discrimination and other injustices. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.