What Not to Do If an Employee Requests an Accommodation

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Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect over 20 years ago, there are still challenges in managing the complexities of employee accommodations and accommodation requests.  On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be too intricate: HR receives an accommodation request, you determine if the employee has a qualified disability, and you offer the accommodation and implement it. But there are a few missteps and challenges that can gum up the process and potentially cause problems.

Here are a few pointers on what not to do:

Create a seamless process that requires little review.

This one probably seems counterintuitive. With the rise of HR technology over the past few years, shouldn’t there be systems that completely facilitate the employee accommodations process? The answer is no. Even if you have a system in place, the number one best practice is to evaluate each employee accommodation on a case-by-case basis. Carefully review each situation based on the disability, essential job functions, and work location, among several other factors.

Assume that all of your managers are trained on the ADA and ADAAA.

Don’t assume that all of your managers are trained on the specifics of the ADA, such as what qualifies as a disability and the broad range of factors that could be considered reasonable accommodations.  Conduct frequent training sessions and ensure that managers are relaying employee accommodation requests in a timely manner and not making employees feel singled out.

Move an accommodation request to the bottom of your work pile because there are no hard deadlines around the ADAAA interactive process.

Even though there aren’t any hard deadlines around the ADAAA, the spirit of the interactive process is open, timely communication. Therefore, once you receive an accommodation request, get moving on it ASAP.  If something arises that puts you in a time crunch, communicate with the employee and let them know that you are tied up but will begin working on it soon.

Forget that extra leave time could be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Once FMLA leave time is exhausted for an employee with a serious health condition, don’t automatically send a termination letter. Additional leave time may be a reasonable accommodation for the employee under the ADA. This accommodation should be assessed at the end of each FMLA leave.

Overlook documentation.

Don’t find yourself frantically searching through emails. Ensure that all documentation relating to employee accommodations and accommodation requests is in a centralized location where information can be easily retrieved across your team. Set reminders for yourself on certain tasks that need to be accomplished. Even set alerts for annual check-ins with the employee to see how things are going relating to their accommodation.

Fail to include essential job functions on job descriptions.

As part of your ADA employee accommodations process, essential job functions should be listed on every job description in your organization. This will help determine work restrictions or modifications.

This list certainly isn’t all-encompassing, and there’s a lot to keep track of. There are several other slip-ups that can arise with employee accommodations, but the key is to engage in the interactive process with the employee by keeping communication open and creating a workplace environment that supports accommodations.

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