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Accommodating disabled employees: Updated DOL web site makes your job easier

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

When employees say they’re having trouble completing their job duties because of their ADA-qualifying disabilities, employers are required to enter into an “interactive process” with them to find accommodations that allow them to perform the job’s essential functions.

However, employers sometimes have trouble bridging the gap between the employee’s disability and ways to allow the employee to perform those essential functions.

That’s where a valuable, free web site can come in handy. The newly updated and redesigned Job Accommodation Network (JAN) site is run by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. You can access it www.jan.wvu.edu. (The University of West Virginia hosts and maintains the site.)

The site offers up-to-date information on accommodations, legislation and changes in the ADA world for employers and disabled individuals.

Best feature: Use the site’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) database 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 (see box below).

Employers can find pages listing common limitations for various conditions. By clicking on the pertinent limitation, the site offers up a list of possible accommodations.

Can’t find the accommodation advice you need? The site allows you to request specific information using the “JAN on Demand” feature. Simply fill out an online form and you’ll receive an e-mail with accommodation assistance.

Using JAN shows ‘good faith’

While no JAN consultant will go to court for you, employers that show they used the JAN accommodation network to thoroughly evaluate accommodation options go a long way to proving their “good faith” effort at identifying a reasonable accommodation for the employee.

That’s why it’s wise to document every interaction you have with the JAN site. 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.

When you receive a list of possible accommodations from JAN, consider each one. While JAN’s list may not be exhaustive, it is the tool the federal government puts out for employers to use. 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 based on your resources.

Then take this list to the employee so he or she can determine which accommodation (or which combination) would work best.

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