The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees with disabilities. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations -- changes to the workplace or the position -- to allow employees with disabilities to do their jobs. As long as an applicant or employee with a disability can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation, the employer may not make hiring, firing, disciplinary, or other employment-related decisions based on the person's disability.
The ADA doesn't specifically require employers to provide disability training to their employees or otherwise educate their workforce about disabilities. However, there are some good reasons to offer this type of training, particularly to managers and supervisors.
There are several benefits to offering training to employees and managers on disability discrimination. Disability training can help you:
Avoid claims of harassment and discrimination. Your company is legally prohibited from discriminating against or harassing employees or applicants with disabilities. If employees with disabilities are treated unfairly at work -- even if that mistreatment is unintentional -- they may have grounds for a lawsuit. Disability training can help employees and managers understand what the law requires and prohibits. For example, some employees may think that teasing a coworker because of a disability is simply a way of treating him or her as "part of the gang," but the employee may see it as unwanted harassment. Or, a manager may refuse an employee's request for an accommodation as too expensive or time-consuming, not realizing that the ADA requires employers to engage in an interactive process with employees to try to come up with a reasonable accommodation that doesn't pose an undue burden on the company.
If you are considering disability training for your workplace, you'll need some help. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for information on training. An experienced employment lawyer can help you understand your legal obligations under the ADA, help you find a qualified trainer, or even conduct trainings for you.