Updated: Jul 12, 2018
Picture this scenario: Your employee hands you a note from their doctor. It reads that the employee cannot perform certain physical tasks anymore or that they will require a break for every hour of work. It may even prescribe something as involved as removing the employee from any environment that has any kind of unnatural scent in the air including cleaning supplies, perfume, or cologne.
Faced with any of these challenges it’s easy to think, “What do I do now?”
In the above example, many employers commonly react in one of four ways:
They do nothing. The supervisor allows the employee to dictate what they will or won’t do while expecting everyone else to continue their job as usual.
The employee assumes that they can’t do their job and takes time off of work.
The supervisor tells the employee to do the work anyway.
The organization spends thousands of dollars on an accommodation that isn’t required or could be done at a lower cost.
None of these actions are correct.
And if you aren’t sure on what the correct course of action is, you’re not alone. This is an often overlooked task that can leave your business at risk for legal action, loss of productivity, or costly over-accommodation.
To get started on the right path, here are some questions to think through:
If you were faced with a new disability in the workplace, would your organization have an actionable plan in place?
Are your managers and supervisors trained on how to handle an employee’s disability request?
Are you knowledgeable about what a reasonable accommodation is and do you have a plan to provide it?
Is your accommodation plan compliant with the various laws that may affect your organization?
To tackle the answers to these questions, you can start with two important actions:
Create well-drafted, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant job descriptions.
Have a workplace accommodations policy that is part of your management and supervisor training.
Creating ADA Compliant Job Descriptions
ADA compliant job descriptions should clearly identify what actions or aspects of the job are:
Critical to the job and repeated frequently
Performed as part of the position, but could be performed by others if needed
Performed infrequently or would not interrupt the daily operations of business if done at a slower pace
Additionally job descriptions should list, in detail, the physical requirements of the position. Examples include lifting up to 35 pounds with a one-person lift or pivoting and walking up to 25 feet. A well-drafted job description allows you to have very detailed conversations with your employee, and their doctor if needed, on what portions of the job will require an accommodation and what kind of accommodations may or may not be possible.
Creating and Using a Workplace Accommodations Policy
When drafting a policy for management to follow, it’s important to include who a requesting employee should talk to.
Start by designating a person who is:
Equipped with understanding how to evaluate the situation
Able to determine if there is a disability under any applicable laws
Able to facilitate conversations with employees about available accommodations
No accommodation should cause an undue hardship on your organization and several factors need to be considered to determine what makes an accommodation unreasonable.
These factors include:
Nature and cost of the accommodation
Financial resources available
Structure and function of the workplace
When you have well-drafted job descriptions and a written accommodation policy (with an execution strategy) in place, you’ll be able to minimize uncertainty. Without these crucial elements, you could be putting your business at a higher risk of workplace injury, overspending on unnecessary accommodation, or even lawsuits and litigation. The proper documentation can also provide your employees with well-defined guidelines for their expected job function.
At Tipler Law, we understand that most business owners don’t have the time or expertise to execute these documents on their own. That’s why we offer the following services, tailored to your business needs:
Creating and/or updating your job descriptions
Creating and/or updating your policies
Training your staff on disability in the workplace and workplace accommodations
Legal assistance for any claims or complaints arising out of workplace accommodations
Learn more about how Tipler Law can help you find the right compliance solutions by calling 937-748-9449 or visit Tipler Law online to schedule your consultation.