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- Employee notifies you or HR about work restrictions or limitations
- You or HR perceive that an employee requires an accommodation based on observation other available information (i.e. lack of productivity)
- You should contact HR to discuss the situation
- HR reviews the situation, assesses documentation and determines if additional information from the medical provider is needed
- HR will discuss with you if we can accommodate in the interim until additional information is received or if the employee needs time off until we receive the additional information
- HR reviews documentation and determines if we have supportive information for the accommodation request, if not additional information will be requested
- HR works with you to determine if the organization can accommodate the work restrictions; if so, then an effective and reasonable accommodation that meets both the individual and job-related needs will be determined
- Follow up with employee on whether restrictions are still in place
- Employee provides updated documentation from medical provider or an annual basis or if a change in work restrictions occurs prior to that date
- Manager will make HR aware of any changes in restriction and accommodation (i.e. employee says they no longer require any restrictions or doctor has modified their restrictions.)
- To assist with determining the current job duties, potential modifications to current role and any available jobs that may accommodate the employee’s restrictions.
- If an employee requests an accommodation, change to their duties, change to their employment (e.g. weekly schedule).
- If the employee indicates they are experiencing a work-related barrier and that barrier is related to an impairment or medical condition, consider whether the employee is making a request for accommodation under the ADA.
What is considered a request for accommodation under the ADA?
A request for accommodation doesn’t always come in the form of a letter that specifies an individual’s disability and need for accommodation. Sometimes the need for accommodation is alluded to during ordinary workplace conversations or is understood because an employee shares a note from a healthcare provider that excuses absences for a medical reason or places restrictions on an individual’s ability to perform certain job tasks. In many situations, there is no clear sign, no flashing light, indicating that the ADA is triggered. This is why it’s important for management staff and human resource professionals to be trained to recognize the flags. When an individual makes it known that an adjustment or change is needed at work, due to a medical reason, this is a request for accommodation under the ADA. There is a nexus between medical impairment or limitations and a work-related issue. Here are some examples:
- An employee who has arrived to work late several times in the past month is counseled regarding attendance. In response, she states, “I’m having difficulty getting to work on-time because of the side effects of medication I’m taking for a recently diagnosed medical condition.”
- An employee who was in a motor vehicle accident becomes paralyzed and returns to work using a wheelchair. On his first day back, he informs his manager that when he entered his workspace he realized that his wheelchair will not fit under his desk.
- A long-term employee who was recently diagnosed with cancer submits a note from her healthcare provider indicating the need for a leave of absence to receive chemotherapy treatments.
Situations like these can be interpreted as requests for accommodation under the ADA, and will trigger the interactive process.
What if it’s not clear that an individual is requesting accommodation?
Employers that are not sure whether an employee has requested an accommodation, may ask the employee to clarify what is being requested and why. This puts the onus on the individual to explain why they’ve mentioned a disability or asked for a change at work. Of course, situations may also arise when an employer has reason to believe that an accommodation is needed because of a known impairment, but the employee hasn’t formally disclosed a disability or requested anything at work.
Instead of asking if an accommodation is needed or whether an individual has a disability that is affecting job performance, there is an alternative approach that employers might consider. Simply ask, “How can I help?” Asking this simple question can be a strategic way of creating a safe space for disability-disclosure and can be useful when accommodation has not been requested, but there is a known impairment and apparent limitations in performing job duties or meeting performance or conduct standards. This question doesn’t make employers vulnerable to appearing as if they are making assumptions about disability or the possible need for accommodation. Rather, asking – “How can I help?” is a smart practice for conveying support and the desire to be part of a solution to resolve a challenging situation.
What is not a request for an accommodation?
A request for workplace adjustments or access to benefits and privileges already available to employees without disabilities is not necessarily a request for reasonable accommodation. For example, when employees are permitted to work a flexible schedule, or to work at home, then employees with disabilities should not be required to jump though extra hoops to receive the same workplace flexibility or privileges as those without disabilities. Now, if an individual with a disability requests access to something beyond the flexibility that is available to employees without disabilities, for a disability related reason, then this may be a request for accommodation. For example, at the discretion of management, employees may work at home one day a week. If an employee with a disability asks to work at home three days a week, for a disability-related reason, then this is a request for accommodation because the privilege of working at home is ordinarily limited to one day.