When employers are confronted with a request by a “disabled” employee for a reasonable accommodation, the employer should consider at least two (2) issues:
- What is the best, practical solution to this business problem?, and
- What are the legal requirements the employer is obligated to comply with?
When the American with Disabilities Act was amended in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, the emphasis was focused on how can a disabled employee be reasonably accommodated rather than was the employee disabled. So, how does the employer determine if it can reasonably accommodate a qualified individual with a disability when the employee asks for an accommodation?
Like many business issues employers encounter, communications are the key. An employer should not assume it knows everything about the facts, circumstances, and needs surrounding the request for accommodation. Nor should the employer convince itself it does not have time to talk to the employee (note – the employer will have to take time to deal with a charge of discrimination!).
While lawyers and Human Resource professionals may use the phrase “interactive dialogue,” the simple fact is that to address the two issues noted previously, a good place to start is to talk to the requesting employee. Yes, just have a conversation to talk about what the employee is asking for as an accommodation, what other accommodations might also address the needs that cause the request for accommodation, and any other relevant information either party can provide to attempt to reach an acceptable conclusion. If follow-up is needed, there might be additional conversation. And, remember to keep notes of such conversations.
By doing this, the employer will at least have one factor on the record that shows a good faith attempt to reasonably accommodate the disabled employee and those conversations may just lead to that best, practical solution to this important business problem. You’ve just engaged in the “interactive process”!
The content of this article is for information purposes only, and neither contains nor should be considered legal advice.