The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation*. With the law in place, employers have a great responsibility should any employees have a disability to accommodate them and provide equal opportunity for the employee. Included in our monthly flat-fee, is unlimited ADA support, to stay compliant with the laws. Here are some steps to take to ensure that you can properly accommodate employees with disabilities.
1. Train All Employees
Requests can be made in many forms, and it legally does not have to be in writing. For example, simple office chatter around the office, an employee might mention that they have a disability in the context of a real-life situation. Just recently, a jury awarded over $200,000 to an employee due to disability discrimination because the supervisor would not allow the employee with diabetes to have a bottle of juice nearby their work station in the case of a hypoglycemic attack.
If all of the employees are trained to recognize what could be considered a reasonable accommodation request, and who the requests should be made to, the better the company will be to handle situations appropriately.
2. Create a Written Policy
Drafting a well-defined policy for disability accommodation in the employee handbook is necessary. Consult with one of our attorneys to review your current policy or to create a new policy. The policy should include the following:
· Be separate/and in addition to nondiscrimination/anti-harassment policies
· Designate specific individuals who will be responsible for handling accommodation requests. Employers can be found liable if an employee can prove that the person who had knowledge of the request failed to take proper action.·
Explain the best way to discuss an accommodation request (i.e. in writing or dialogue)
· Have a clear understanding of how the accommodation might affect the way the employee performs the essential functions of the job.
3. Continue Dialogue and Assessments with the Person Receiving Accommodation
It is necessary for the employer or supervisors to continue to have open discussion with the employee to make sure that the accommodation is effective and suffice. The employer is legally required to continue the open dialogue to determine any job related limitations that might stem from the disability, and also to decide which accommodations could be reasonably applied. For our clients, this would be a time to consult with one of our attorneys to determine what can and can’t be asked of the employee, and also help with providing reasonable accommodation.
Each conversation with the employee requiring accommodation should be documented and updated in a confidential medical file. Failing to update records could be a disadvantage if you end up in court.