While the Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect January 1, 2009, their impact persists. After receiving my own refresher on the Act at a recent conference, it seemed appropriate to provide employers with some points to keep in mind regarding accommodations for individuals with disabilities under the ADA.
- It is now easier for individuals to establish coverage for a disability under the ADA. Focus on working with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation, rather than spending time and effort on determining if the disability qualifies for accommodation.
- Part-time and temporary employees are eligible for reasonable accommodations under the ADA. Coverage is not limited to full-time employees.
- Full and accurate job descriptions are important and should be in place for all positions. Ensure that job descriptions include the essential functions of that job. Essential job functions do not have to be reallocated to accommodate a disability; however, marginal job functions may need to be reassigned.
- Your process for handling a request for accommodation under the ADA matters. Always act in good faith, document your process, and dialogue extensively with the employee.
- Determining what accommodation is appropriate should be highly individualized and based on an actual assessment of the individual’s needs.
- While you should err on the side of providing a reasonable accommodation, you do not have to provide the employee’s preferred accommodation if an equally reasonable, alternative accommodation exists.
- Demonstrating that you treat everyone uniformly is not helpful under the ADA. Exceptions and individual circumstances must be considered for each individual.
- It is an employee’s responsibility to ask for an accommodation. There are, however, no magic words an employee must use to make the request. If an employee tells a supervisor that he is having difficulty performing a certain task because of a disability – the employer is on notice!
- Notwithstanding #8, you can (and should) ask that the employee reduce the accommodation request to writing after providing a verbal notice.
- You do not have to provide commuting assistance. Employees remain responsible for getting to and from the office.
- You may have to consider allowing the employee to work from home as an accommodation. While physical presence in the office may be a key requirement for certain jobs, be aware that as technology improves, an employer’s ability to prohibit telecommuting may decrease.
If you are faced with a request for accommodation for a disability, or if you need to implement a process for handling ADA requests, please contact Wright Beamer for further assistance.