The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law which protects disabled employees from discrimination. Chapter 216 of the Iowa Code provides protection for disabled workers as well.

A covered employer under the federal law means any business with at least 15 employees. The Iowa law covers all businesses with employees.

Both the federal and state laws protect qualified individuals with a disability against employment discrimination. Disability includes a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. Much has changed with respect to who qualifies as a having a physical or mental impairment. A good rule of thumb is to start with the assumption that the person meets the definition of disabled and work from there. If you have questions contact your attorney. The other two definitions of disabled—having a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment—generally go unnoticed, but it is important to remember that even someone without a disability can be covered under these laws.

A qualified individual is one who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. For this reason, identifying the essential job functions with job descriptionsis important.


If a person is disabled under the ADA or Iowa law, the employer is required to reasonably accommodate the individual unless it would impose a great hardship on the employer. It is important for employers to discuss with the employee reasonable accommodations that will assist the employee in performing his or her job duties. Refer to my previous post, if you are having trouble identifying a reasonable accommodation. Remember you do not necessarily have to accept the employee’s suggestion if a different accommodation will allow that person to perform his or her job duties.