The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the definition of disability and expanded the group of people who would qualify as disabled. (Visit the EEOC website for additional information on the expanded definitions). The amendments put more pressure on employers to provide reasonable accommodations and created more potential liability for companies that are not careful in observance of the law. Recently, we have been seeing an increase in the number of requests for accommodations.
To mitigate your liability in the case of a future lawsuit, we offer three (3) effective steps you should take now:
1. Keep Job Descriptions Current, Detailed, and Accurate. It is critical that job descriptions be kept up to
date and always include essential functions (labeled as such) of a job.
Employers have a responsibility to at least attempt to reasonably accommodate an
employee who cannot perform an essential function. Essential functions in a job
description can be one factor in legally proving that the task is indeed
essential to the job; these functions can include physical requirements and
stamina requirements as well as job tasks.
2. Develop an Accommodations Policy. Creating and distributing a reasonable
accommodation policy can demonstrate your commitment to honoring the ADA. The
policy should direct ALL reasonable accommodation requests to HR / a Senior
Management individual rather than to supervisors; an individual better
equipped/trained to deal with the nuances and legal risks of handling such a
request and ensure
consistency within the organization.
3. Train Supervisors. Even though you direct employees to HR / a Senior Management individual, supervisors need to know how to handle the situation if a reasonable accommodation is requested of them. They should not respond either yes or no to the request, regardless of how feasible it may or may not be, but should refer the request to the designated authority. In addition, supervisors should be trained to handle potential ADA situations that may arise during a job interview or in their daily work with employees.
Please contact us for assistance in
addressing these issues.