ADA Compliance: An Interactive Process
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law prohibiting the discrimination of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of public life. This includes transportation, school, work, and any other arena that is open to the public. For employers, compliance with the ADA means providing reasonable accommodation to employees living with disabilities. Any organization with fifteen or more employees must comply with any request for accommodations that does not cause undue hardship to the employer.
Adequately complying with the ADA begins with education and understanding. Educate yourself of the ADA using resources such as the EEOC or the Department of Labor. Be familiar with local, state, and federal legislation that may apply to accommodation and create organizational policies and procedures that follow these guidelines. After compliance is clear through policy, move to ensure that your workplace, job descriptions, and job postings are ADA compliant. This can mean establishing essential functions for each position, creating employee information surrounding how to communicate issues, and establishing and positing anti-discrimination notices.
When your organization is prepared, it is easier to ensure all employees have what they need to be effective in their positions. Accommodating a disability can be as simple as allowing additional breaks for an employee, other times it can mean restructuring a position, providing interpreters or making the facility more accessible. Unfamiliar adjustments can seem overwhelming but are most often at little cost to the employer and ensure your employees feel comfortable, valued, and able to do their jobs effectively.
The first step to understanding the needs of your employee is to enter into an interactive process. Review any accommodation requests from an employee or their healthcare provider to better understand what accommodations are needed and how to go about the process. While the ADA does not require a written request for accommodation, having one on file ensures your organization is aware of the need and that there is clear communication established between you and the employee. In addition to a written request, written permission to discuss medical information with the employee’s healthcare provider can be an essential tool in ensuring you’re supporting them in the best way possible. After establishing the initial accommodation, keep an open dialogue with the employee and their healthcare provider to ensure that all needs are being met. While continuing a dialogue may seem unnecessary, proving an employee with support can illustrate how much you value them and ensure that they’re provided with everything they need to be healthy, happy, and productive in your organization.
Providing adequate accommodations goes beyond simply complying with the ADA. It allows your employees to feel supported and valued and can be an excellent way of visibly illustrating your organization’s ethical practices. It provides you with the opportunity to show your employees and your community that you value their contributions to your organization and are willing to do the right thing to maintain a diverse and competent workforce.