Most employers would agree that an injured employee who is able to return to work and provide value is better than an employee on disability leave. In some cases, this requires adjusting the work duties, tools and equipment, or expectations to accommodate that employee’s injury.
The employer starts by reviewing the basic job duties of the position, being open with the employee in question, and undertaking a thorough study of the requested accommodation of the employee. A company may decide that it causes an unreasonable difficulty to supply the requested changes if the costs are financially challenging or if they employee will no longer be able to fulfill available duties for the company.
Let’s discuss the different measures taken to comply with the conditions specified in the ADA when an injured worker requires accommodation.
1. Check if Your Workplace is Covered Under the ADA
The ADA covers all businesses, including state and local government workers, with 15 or more employees.
2. Have a Policy and Procedure in Place for Managing Accommodation Requests
Organizations should enforce their protocols and processes for managing disability accommodation requests and/or revisit them.
Review job descriptions to make sure they list all important tasks and facets of the job, including physical conditions like standing, lifting heavy objects, and sitting for long periods.
3. Review if the Employee with a Disability is “Qualified”
The word “qualified” regarding an individual with a disability means that the individual meets the qualifications, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the employment role that the individual occupies or wants and, with or without appropriate accommodation, may fulfill the critical functions of that role.
Employers should assess if the person has a qualifying disability under the ADA. Under the ADA, an employer may be expected to provide a disabled employee with appropriate accommodation. The ADA classifies disability as a physical or mental impairment that reduces lifelong activity. Employees with minor injuries can also be deemed disabled under the ADA. Even if the employee is not necessarily impaired, the ADA specifies that if the employer “perceives” the worker as being impaired, the ADA may cover the employee.
4. Engage in the Interactive Process
Under the ADA, companies should take part in an “interactive process” with staff, healthcare providers, and employers. This discussion decides what, if any, accommodation might be required. The ADA does not require the request to be submitted in writing, but recording the request is a good practice. Employees may be asked to obtain appropriate reports from their healthcare providers. The employer must receive written medical release or authorization from the employee to talk to the health care provider of the employee.
5. Understand What’s “Reasonable Accommodation”
The ADA does not mandate employers to provide a straightforward procedure for the determination of appropriate accommodation. Accommodation can be a transition or a transition in the workplace, enabling workers with disabilities to fulfill important job duties. The accommodations required and given would depend on the limitations of the condition and the capacity of the employee to fulfill the important responsibilities of the position.
Some are free or low-cost, such as adjusting the job schedule or offering extended unpaid leave. Check with the employee and their healthcare professional that the negotiated accommodation does not exacerbate the employee’s condition or create any problems.
Here are some more examples of job accommodations from the Office of Disability Employment Policy:
- Changing the workspace layout
- Accessible and assistive technologies
- Making sure computer software is accessible
- Revising a policy to allow a service animal in a business setting
Changing work schedules so employees with chronic medical conditions can go to medical appointments and complete their work at other times or locations
6. Decide if the Accommodation is Reasonable or Under an Undue Hardship
Employers should be vigilant when using the protection of unfair hardship as an excuse for failing to comply with the ADA order. The EEOC is concerned not only with the expense of the unique accommodation but also with the financial stability of the business. Organizations should obtain guidance from the employee’s supervisor to help decide what “reasonable” accommodation could be. Once the accommodation has been decided, the employer should file the specific accommodations.
7. Tell the Employee
The next move is for HR to tell the employee in writing that their requested accommodation has been accepted or refused. HR keeps all requests for accommodation, supporting medical information, and documents, including denials, in a separate file. It is also unlawful for an employer to retaliate or dismiss an employee because the employee has demanded a fair accommodation or because the employer considers the employee to be a liability.
The accommodation process is not set in stone and will need to be reviewed, particularly if the employee’s condition changes or the business’ needs shift.