Given the ever expanded concept of what constitutes a disability, employers will continue to face an ever growing compliance challenge. Here are some basics to be remembered:
- Knowledge of the need to accommodate an employee can come from numerous sources including a work comp claims manager, a company supervisor or manager, HR, the employee themselves, a union rep, a doctor, poor performance, simple observation, or some kind of hotline call.
- To have a good process, it must be laid out step-by-step with supporting documentation.
- Be interactive. Remember the rule that the first to give up on the dialogue process generally loses.
- Have appropriate education and training. For example, HR could create a simple video to help employees with the accommodation process.
- Allow managers to engage in simple, easy and quick accommodations.
- Proper documentation of all steps in the process.
- Ongoing communication, monitoring, feedback, and improvement.
The accommodation process begins with a needs assessment. This means a thorough review of the job description and duties and a clear understanding of the employee’s limitations including potential absences etc. Remember you can accommodate an employee by the following means:
- Changing facilities or equipment
- Job restrictions
- Modifying schedules
- Modifying a test, training, or policies
- Offering vacant positions within their skill range
- Offering temporary positions (the ADA does not require you to create a new position for an employee)
- Support including readers, interpreters, or even dogs
- A leave of absence
- Any other idea that would generate a reasonable accommodation
Proper documentation of any undue burden
One of the biggest mistakes an employer makes is to assume in advance that an accommodation would create an undue burden. If the request is reasonable, the best approach is to let them try it and to be clear about performance standards. Document any shortcomings their accommodations may be causing and continue to communicate about ways to elevate them.
There is extensive material on the ADA on HR That Works including flow charts, checklists, forms, and policies to use. There is also training you can provide your managers (a good idea). Also remember if you have over 50 employees the FMLA may allow an employee who has serious medical condition up to 12 weeks of leave which they may use instead of accepting an accommodation.