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Disabled staff? No need to revamp their jobs

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Issue: How far must you go to offer disabled employees a "reasonable accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Benefit: ADA doesn't give employees carte blanche. You don't need to change the job's "essential functions" just to suit the disability.

Action: Review your job descriptions for applicability; they play a key role in determining what's an essential function and what's not.

When employees request job accommodations for their disabilities, you must interact with them to find reasonable modifications. But it's important to know how far your organization must stretch the job to comply.

The good news: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says you're not required to create an entirely new position for disabled employees, nor must you change the job's "essential functions" just to suit the disability.

When determining a job's essential functions and the reasonableness of a suggested accommodation, here's a checklist of evidence you (and the courts) will look at: 

  • Your written job description. 
  • Your judgment as to which job functions are essential. 
  • Amount of time spent performing each function. 
  • Consequences of the employee not performing the duties. 
  • Terms of a collective-bargaining agreement, if applicable. 
  • Experience of other employees in the position (or similar positions). 

Tip: Regularly review your job descriptions; they play an important role in deciding what's an "essential" function.

Recent case: Clyde Ammons injured his knee, which restricted his ability to do his lead mechanic job. Ammons suggested that his position be changed to "maintenance trouble-shooter," making it a half-day. The company refused, saying such an accommodation would be a significant change in his job's essential functions.

After Ammons was fired, he sued. But a lower court tossed out his ADA case, and a federal appeals court agreed, saying, "accommodations for a full-time employee are expected to permit the employee to work full time." Letting him work parttime as a trouble-shooter would amount to creating an entirely new position, which employers are not obligated to do. (Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, No. 03-1036, 7th Cir., 2004)

So how far must you go to comply with ADA's "reasonable accommodation" rules? Find out in our free report, ADA: The Limits of Accom-modation, free at www.hrspecialist.net/ada.

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