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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


Latest Q&A Fact Sheet Explains How Americans with Disabilities Act Applies to Employment in the Health Care Industry

WASHINGTON - Naomi C. Earp, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), today announced the issuance of a new question-and-answer (Q&A) fact sheet on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to job applicants and employees in the health care industry. The new publication, part of a series of Q&A documents about specific disabilities in the workplace and specific industries, is available on the EEOC's web site at

Health care is the largest industry in the American economy. The health care industry provided more than 13 million jobs in 2004 and is expected to account for 19 percent of all new jobs created between 2004 and 2014 -- more than any other industry. In addition, the health care industry has a high incidence of occupational injury and illness. Health care jobs may involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, injuries from syringes, and other dangers; many health care jobs can also be physically demanding and mentally stressful.

The new Q&A fact sheet provides practical information about applying ADA employment rules in health care jobs, in a variety of settings - from public and private hospitals and nursing care facilities to doctors' and dentists' offices and diagnostic laboratories. The occupations within the health care field are many and varied, including not only physicians, surgeons, dental hygienists and nurses, but social workers, physical therapists, medical records clerks, laboratory technicians, paramedics, home health aides, and custodial and food service workers in medical facilities.

"We should be mindful that disability does not mean inability, and that every individual deserves the freedom to compete on a fair and level playing field," said Chair Earp in announcing the issuance of the new document. "People with disabilities represent a vast pool of untapped talent for employers, particularly in an industry that is growing as rapidly as the health care industry."

Although the rules under Title I of the ADA are the same for employers and individuals with disabilities in all industries, this fact sheet explains how the ADA applies to some unique situations that may arise in the health care setting. Many of the real-life examples in the fact sheet are based on cases that have been decided by courts or settled by the EEOC.

Topics discussed in the new publication include:

  • When someone is an "employee" covered by the ADA (as opposed to an independent contractor);
  • When someone is an "individual with a disability" under the ADA;
  • How to determine if a health care applicant or employee with a disability is qualified for ADA purposes;
  • What types of reasonable accommodations health care workers with disabilities may need and the limitations on a health care employer's obligation to provide reasonable accommodation;
  • When an employer may ask health care applicants or employees questions about their medical conditions or require medical examinations; and
  • How a health care employer should handle safety concerns about applicants and employees.

The EEOC's latest ADA publication helps to advance the goals of the New Freedom Initiative, President Bush's comprehensive strategy for the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The New Freedom Initiative seeks to promote greater access to technology, education, employment opportunities, and community life for people with disabilities. An important part of the New Freedom Initiative strategy for increasing employment opportunities involves providing employers with technical assistance on the ADA.

The EEOC enforces Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government. In addition, the EEOC enforces other federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and age. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

This page was last modified on February 26, 2007.