What is Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation is described by ADA as “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”
There are three main categories of accommodation:
- Changes or modifications to the job application process.
- Modifications to the work environment.
- Equal benefits and privileges of employment
Common accommodations include:
- Making existing facilities accessible
- Job restructuring
- Part-time or modified work schedules
- Acquiring or modifying equipment
- Changing tests, training materials, or policies
- Providing qualified readers or interpreters;
- Flexibility with leave of absence policies
- Flexibility with reassignment to vacant positions
Designated ADA Person
Ensure that there is a designated individual who is responsible for handling accommodation requests in the company. They must be the ADA expert for employees, supervisors, and applicants. The Designated ADA person should take a leadership role in ADA matters and be in charge of the following:
- Establish a company policy for reasonable accommodations and be sure to include a procedure for handling accommodation requests or complaints.
- Point person should document the companies’ efforts to provide reasonable accommodations and it’s responses to complaints and requests.
- The following individuals and departments should be educated on ADA requirements for special accommodation:
- Management and supervisors
- Health & Safety Personnel
- Employee Relations Personnel
- All HR Support Personnel – sick leave, absence, etc.
- Disability Personnel
- IT Personnel
- Facilities Personnel
Policies & Procedures in accordance with Reasonable Accommodation
- Be sure to plan work events so that employees with disabilities will also be able to participate. For example, be sure the facility you are using has ramps and satisfactory accommodations.
- HR team should be flexible with accommodating deviations from normal HR policies such as shorter shifts, flexibility with leaves of absence.
- Ensure that organization has written job descriptions which clearly explain the core job duties and requirements.
- Ensure special needs employees are an integral part of the work environment. Do not isolate them.
- Be cognizant of how other employees may need to support or assist employees with disabilities. Ensure that positive reinforcement occurs and that there is an environment of dignity maintained from all perspectives.
A Note on Medical Records Privacy & Confidentiality
- Be sure to keep any medical information in a separate file from the regular employee file.
- A best practice is to file medical records in a locked drawer or cabinet and have limited access to a designated HR employee.
An employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it can demonstrate that it would be an undue hardship to do so. Whether a reasonable accommodation creates an undue hardship is a factual issue depending on factors such as the nature and net cost of the accommodation and the size and nature of the business. The duty of reasonable accommodation is situation-specific.
- *source www.ilr.cornell.edu, author: Lee, Barbara, 5/2000
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