We have all heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But one of the biggest questions I get from my clients is “how to comply with the regulations in order to avoid litigation?” Unfortunately, ADA continues to be a liability for employers with 15 or more employees because it presents complex requirements for employers in working with and managing employees with disabilities.
When we talk about ADA we often hear “reasonable accommodations” which the EEOC defines as, “a modification or an adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.”
What must employers do to show they are engaged in providing accommodations to those who request it? Below are my top recommendations for complying with ADA regulations.
7 Best Practices for Complying with ADA Regulations
- Create a policy. Inform your employees that if a request for accommodation is presented, you will review their job description with them, determine the difficulties that their disability causes in their performance of the essential job functions, and discuss accommodations you can provide to assist them.
- Review your job descriptions. Ensure you have outlined the essential job functions in the job description and you have justified why those duties are essential.
- Train your managers to recognize an accommodation request. There is no requirement that an employee request an accommodation in writing. Just by an employee stating that he or she is having a problem performing their job because of a medical condition is sufficient enough for accommodating a request. Therefore, providing formal training for your managers on all aspects of ADA is critical in avoiding legal issues such as knowing not to ask questions about the medical condition or disability issue.
- Arrange a meeting with the employee along with HR. To establish a standardized procedure it is best to have an interactive process that includes the employee, manager and HR. The goal of this meeting is to determine what challenges the employee is having in performing their job functions because of a disability. The purpose of this meeting is to come up with suggestions for enabling the employee to continue carrying out his or her tasks.
- Determine if you need information from the employee’s physician. You may request as part of this process the employee provide information from his or her physician about the restrictions caused by the medical condition and any suggested accommodations. You need to ensure you limit your request to information required only as a business necessity in determining accommodations that do not create an undue hardship to the organization.
- Follow-up. Once a reasonable accommodation has been implemented, it is best practice to follow-up with the employee to ensure the accommodation is effective.
- Document! It is essential you document the entire process to include all conversations between the employee and manager regardless of how short they are. Clear documentation will provide you evidence to defend any claim that you did not provide reasonable accommodation should it come up. All documentation should be placed in the employee’s benefits or confidential file with limited access.
Employers who follow these best practices will set themselves up to be in a better position if they are ever charged with not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plus, did you know there are tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire disabled workers?