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Employers’ Obligations in the ADA Interactive Process
Posted by: Emma Berdanier on January 7th, 2020
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aims to create an interactive process between employees and employers. This process is designed to occur with each new employee who qualifies under the act. The employer and employee will work together in this process to assess whether the employee’s disability can be reasonably accommodated.
This process must begin when an employer receives an accommodation request from one of their employees. Because each situation is unique, employers must understand what their obligations are to engage in this process and work to accommodate their employees.
Steps of the Interactive Process
Recognize the Accommodation Request
Employers need to understand when an employee is requesting an accommodation. These requests are not always straightforward. They can come in many different forms, and employers need to know when a request is being made. Examples of requests are when an employee:
needs to take time off but is not eligible under FMLA.
exhausts FMLA leave but needs more time off.
gives a medical reason to explain absences or performance issues.
Employers need to know that an employee has a covered disability (LINK). It is perfectly legal and, in many cases, necessary for an employer to request documentation from the employee’s healthcare provider regarding their disability. This documentation should provide information about the specific disability and the specific limitations the employee faces from this disability.
Once the healthcare provider gives the employer the information they need, the employer needs to review it along with the employee’s essential job functions. It is up to the employer to determine which, if any, of these job functions will be impacted due to the employee’s limitations.
Explore Options & Choose an Accommodation
To determine the correct accommodation for each unique situation, employers should:
Look at past situations that were similar to determine how those were handled.
Ask both the employee and their healthcare provider to submit accommodation suggestions to take into consideration.
Discuss options with the employee to come to terms with an appropriate, reasonable accommodation that will help the employee and won’t significantly impact the office.
Seeking legal advice from an employment attorney throughout this process is advised, especially if an employer deems a possible accommodation unreasonable and is considering rejecting it.
Extra Information About the Interactive Process
An employer is not required to provide the specific accommodation requested by the employer. Instead, the law requires the employer to provide a reasonable accommodation that they determine and come to an agreement on through the interactive process. An employer can also deny an accommodation request due to undue hardship or direct threat.
If more than one effective reasonable accommodation applies, the employer may choose the accommodation. The only exception for this is if one of the accommodations is putting the employee on leave. If there is another effective accommodation other than leave that would enable the employee to continue working, then the employer cannot require that employee to take leave.
Navigating the ADA and your obligations as an employer can be tricky. It’s important to fully understand the content of the act and how to appropriately act within the context of it.
This article does not constitute legal advice. J. Kent Staffing recommends you contact an employment attorney to fully understand your employer obligations related to this subject.