What Accessibility Laws Mean for Company Training Videos
Updated: March 16, 2021
Each year, Americans work roughly 1,790 hours. With such a great deal of time spent at work, it’s imperative that individuals have what they need to be successful and safe in their work environment.
The Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad anti-discrimination law. The objective of the ADA is to guarantee equal opportunity for all people with disabilities in employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. The ADA consists of five sections, each focusing on different areas of an individual’s experience within society.
- Title I: employment
- Title II: public entities
- Title III: public accommodations
- Title IV: telecommunications
- Title V: miscellaneous provisions
Company Training Videos
Providing accessible company training videos is covered under both Title I and Title II of the ADA.
Title I prohibits employers and government agencies from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of a disability. This section covers all aspects of a job from the job application procedures, to firing, and everything in between. This includes advancement, compensation, job training, and conditions and privileges of employment.
Title II applies to employment in public entities. Under Title II, disabled employees must not be barred from performing responsibilities because of inaccessible processes or procedures. Therefore state and local entities need to caption videos for internal communication and training, as well as public‐facing material.
Under the ADA an employer is required to make reasonable accommodation for the disability of a qualified applicant or employee, as long as it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the business. Accommodations vary from situation to situation, but one example of this type of accommodation would be providing a d/Deaf employee with a sign language interpreter or captioned video content for job training. Failing to do so is exactly what landed FedEx Ground in a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
FedEx Ground Sued in Violation of the ADA
FedEx Ground was found to have discriminated against d/Deaf and hard of hearing employees in several different incidents. In each scenario, FedEx failed to provide these people with the legal and rightful accommodations necessary for a safe and fair working environment. Specifically, FedEx did not provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or closed captioned training videos during:
- Mandatory initial tour of the facilities
- New-hire orientation
- Staff meetings
- Performance meetings, or
- Safety meetings
A total of 19 individual discrimination charges have been filed against FedEx Ground across the US for failing to make these reasonable accommodations. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) stepped forward in the lawsuit to intervene on behalf of two deaf employees who been denied accommodations such as sign language interpreters. FedEx also denied providing changes to several pieces of equipment that rely on sound. Simple modifications to these machines would include adding flashing lights or vibration as an alternative way to alert employees who can’t hear. These alterations would make the work environment much safer for these individuals, as well as other employees on site.
Undue Hardship for a Reasonable Accommodation
Legally, the only way an employer would be exempt from their obligation to provide reasonable accommodation is in the case that such accommodation would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. But, you might be thinking that seems a bit vague. So, what exactly is an undue hardship? Undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense. Undue hardship can refer to financial difficulty as well as accommodations that are incredibly substantial, or disruptive, or which would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. Employers typically make case-by-case basis judgement calls on whether or not a specific reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship.
According to their official website, FedEx Ground employs over 95,000 people and had a revenue of $18.1 billion at the end of the 2017 fiscal year. These numbers show the success of FedEx Ground and make it difficult to believe that simple modifications and accommodations would cause a great burden to the organization – either financially or otherwise.
Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis. Typically, a larger employer like FedEx Ground, would be expected to make accommodations requiring more effort or expense than a smaller organization, as they likely have the resources to do so.
If in any particular case the organization still doesn’t have the resources, “calling undue hardship” is not meant to be an easy way out for employers. If a particular accommodation is deemed to be an undue hardship, employers are expected to try to find another accommodation that can be made without hardship. Similarly, in cases where the cost of an accommodation is the factor imposing undue hardship, the individual in need of the accommodation should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost.
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