Employer Tips – Employees with Disabilities

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Tips for Addressing Employees with Disabilities

Woman in wheelchair talking to fellow employees

Create a written policy
Ensure your employee handbook includes a disability accommodation policy that clearly describes the interactive dialogue process and focuses on the need for communication between employees and HR professionals.

Train All Employees
Supervisors are the eyes and ears of the company. Thus, employers who fail to train their managers on handling accommodation requests are setting themselves up for future problems.

Imagine, for example, an employee sharing with his boss that he struggles to make it to work in the morning due to physical therapy sessions he must attend. Believe it or not, that conversation would likely be deemed an accommodation request in the courtroom. An untrained supervisor not only may fail to initiate an appropriate interactive dialogue but also could subject the employee to disciplinary action that might later be considered unlawful retaliation.

Make Individualized Assessments
This is not a one-size-fits-all process; each request requires an individualized assessment that should include suggestions from the employee and the manager. Think of it as a brainstorming session. The company cannot merely rely on an approach that worked previously for an employee with a similar disability. Keep an open mind and carefully evaluate each individual's request and medical condition.

Keep Talking
An employer's obligation does not end after a worker has been given reasonable accommodations. Continue to follow up with the employee and their supervisor to ensure that the accommodation is sufficient, and do not assume that the initial discussion and decisions will suffice. The job conditions and the health of the employee can change. Be sure employees know to inform designated HR professionals if the accommodation provided becomes insufficient.

Questions to Consider:

  • What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  • How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  • What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  • What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  • Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
  • Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  • Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination based on a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants with disabilities in all aspects of employment including hiring, pay, promotion, firing, and more.

The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about determining whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) system is designed to let users explore various accommodation options for people with disabilities in work and educational settings.

Oklahoma Online Workforce Resources:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Section 503 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: Competitive and Integrated Employment for People with Disabilities
Reasonable Accommodations under the ADA
Effective Communication under the ADA

Oklahoma WorksOklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Oklahoma ABLE Tech have collaborated to provide this information and advice to those seeking accommodation in the workplace.  

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