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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


ADA Policy Guidances and Status Report Issued, Commission Meeting To Be Held

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued two major guidances and a status report on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as part of its commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the landmark civil rights law. The three documents, which will also be distributed and discussed at a public Commission Meeting this afternoon, address genetic discrimination in the federal workplace, disability-related inquiries and medical exams, and EEOC enforcement of the ADA's employment provisions (Title I). The full text of the documents are available on the agency's web site at

"The Commission has taken an active and forceful role in removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "Our multi-pronged, comprehensive approach to ADA implementation technical assistance, education, and outreach as well as the use of the administrative process, litigation and policy development sends the unequivocal message that EEOC is committed to vigorously enforcing the ADA."

Today's Commission Meeting will take place at 2:00 p.m. at EEOC headquarters in the first floor training center, 1801 L Street, N.W. During the meeting, EEOC Commissioners and senior investigative, legal, and field office staff will discuss the accomplishments and challenges of ADA enforcement, as well as the two new guidance documents on genetic discrimination in the federal workplace and disability-related inquiries and medical exams of employees.

"While it has been a decade since the passage of the ADA, there is still widespread discrimination against people with disabilities," said Vice Chairman Paul M. Igasaki. "The fight for civil rights for people with disabilities is not so different from the civil rights movement of the 1960s on the matter of race. EEOC's law enforcement efforts, particularly our litigation program, must be a dynamic part of this movement."

The issuance of EEOC's new guidance to prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on genetic information implements Executive Order 13145, which was signed by President Clinton on February 8, 2000. The Executive Order places strict limits on the collection, use and disclosure of protected genetic information by executive departments and agencies. Such protected information is broadly defined to include family medical history in addition to genetic test results and requests for genetic services.

EEOC's policy guidance, through a user-friendly question and answer format and real-world examples, explains what types of genetic information is covered by the Executive Order and outlines the prohibitions of workplace bias based on protected genetic information, a request for genetic services, or the receipt of such services.

"This policy makes clear that genetic information never has an impact on an individual's ability to perform in their job," said Commissioner Paul Steven Miller. "Therefore, genetic information should not be collected, disclosed or used in any manner by a federal employer. Rather, individuals should be judged simply based upon their ability to do the job."

The Commission is also issuing an enforcement guidance entitled Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is the second guidance issued by the Commission addressing the ADA's provisions on employer access to medical information. In 1995, the agency released a similar guidance covering job applicants. The new guidance answers the most frequently asked questions that EEOC has received about when employers may obtain medical information regarding current employees.

According to the guidance, an employer is generally prohibited from making disability-related inquiries or requiring medical examinations of workers, except where it has reason to believe that a particular employee is having a performance problem due to a medical condition. In limited situations, however, employers may ask employees in positions affecting public safety (such as police officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and pilots) to take periodic medical examinations or to report the use of prescription medications that may affect job performance.

"Employers obviously don't have to wait for accidents to occur before they can legitimately find out about conditions or medications that, in certain types of jobs, could cause sudden and very serious consequences for public safety," said Chairwoman Castro.

Remarking on the issuance of the two guidances and the tenth anniversary of the ADA, Commissioner Reginald E. Jones said, "As a Senate staffer ten years ago, I was privileged to be part of the effort that resulted in the overwhelming bi-partisan passage of the ADA. Today, I am equally privileged to be part of the bi-partisan effort reflected in the Commission's unanimous approval of these two important disability-related guidances."

In addition to the policy guidances, EEOC is releasing a comprehensive status report on ADA enforcement since the groundbreaking law was enacted on July 26, 1990. The tenth anniversary report covers the following:

  • Initial technical assistance and outreach efforts;
  • Administrative enforcement activities, including filings of charges, types of employment discrimination faced by individuals with disabilities, and voluntary mediation of ADA cases;
  • Litigation of ADA suits, including significant district court cases as well as Supreme Court and appellate court decisions;
  • Regulations, policy guidances, and related documents; and
  • Continuing technical assistance and outreach efforts.

Since July 1992, when Title I became effective, through the first half of Fiscal Year 2000 (March 31, 2000), the Commission has obtained over $300 million on behalf of more than 20,000 individuals through its enforcement efforts, including settlements, conciliations, mediation, and litigation. In addition, EEOC has obtained non-monetary benefits for over 10,000 individuals, including reasonable accommodation, policy changes, training and education, job referrals, union membership, and the posting of EEO notices at job sites.

EEOC has enforcement authority for the employment provisions of the ADA (Title I), which prohibit private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, discharge, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms and conditions of employment.

In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; the Equal Pay Act; and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site at

This page was last modified on July 27, 2000.