Tennessee ADA: What you need to know

The Tennessee Disability Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of physical, mental, or visual disability, including the use of a guide dog. The law covers all employers regardless of size (TN Code Sec. 8-50-103).

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"Disability" defined. "Disability" is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. Current illegal drug use or addiction to a controlled substance is specifically excluded from the definition (TN Code Sec. 4-21-102 (9)).

Reasonable accommodation. State law does not require employers to provide applicants or employees with reasonable accommodation for a disability. One federal district court has ruled that the state disability act mirrors the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including the ADA's requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodation for the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee, unless to do so would create an undue hardship on the employer's business (Bower v. Fed. Express Corp., 156 F. Supp. 2d 678 (W.D. Tenn. 2001)). However, another federal district court in Tennessee has ruled that the state law imposes no obligation on employers for reasonable accommodation (Adams v. TRW Auto. U.S. LLC, No. 3:03-1240 (M.D. Tenn. 2005)).

The federal ADA prohibits disability discrimination and imposes a broad range of responsibilities on private employers, including a requirement for reasonable accommodation. Under the ADA, an employer must reasonably accommodate a qualified individual with a disability unless doing so creates an undue hardship for the employer.

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