The ADA requires employers to enter into an interactive process with disabled employees to find accommodations that allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs.
While employers and employees may know what the job is and what its essential functions are, neither may know how to bridge the gap between the employee’s disability and allowing the employee to perform the job.
WHAT’S NEW: Recently, the federal government updated its Job Accommodation Network (JAN) web site. The electronic information service is run by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Employers can access the network online at www.jan.wvu.edu. (The University of West Virginia hosts and maintains the site.)
The newly redesigned web site offers up-to-date information on accommodations, legislation and changes in the ADA world to employers, disabled individuals and others.
Employers can use the site’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) pages to find specific accommodation information. SOAR (www.jan.wvu.edu/soar/) suggests accommodations for more than 50 different classes of conditions that might work for employees.
By following the links, employers can find pages listing common limitations a worker with that condition may face. By clicking on the pertinent limitation, the web site takes the employer through possible accommodations.
Most ADA cases that go to court eventually focus on what accommodation efforts the employer made. JAN gives employers accommodation options, but not every accommodation works, and certainly not every accommodation is reasonable.
However, employers that access JAN can demonstrate they looked at and evaluated each accommodation listed on the site.
Be sure to document every accommodation action you take. Address each accommodation listed in JAN. While JAN’s list may not be exhaustive, it is the tool the federal government puts out for employers to use. An employee would have a difficult time proving the employer did not engage in the accommodation process if the employer could show it evaluated every accommodation listed by JAN.
Once you have identified the accommodations that might work, analyze each for cost and workplace disruption to determine which accommodations are reasonable. Specifically, you’ll need to determine a cost for each accommodation and then determine which are reasonable and unreasonable based on your available resources.
Then take this list to the employee so he or she can determine which accommodation (or which combination) would work best.
Ultimately, the employer gets to choose the accommodation; however, getting is important to getting employee buy-in and reducing the likelihood of litigation.
JAN in court
While no JAN consultant will go to court for either an employee or employer, employers that show they used the JAN accommodation network to thoroughly evaluate each accommodation essentially have an ally in the web site. In addition to the accommodation list, any correspondence between the employer and a JAN consultant shows a good-faith effort to find reasonable accommodations.
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