ADA: Performance and Conduct Standards

Sometimes an employee’s disability may create performance or conduct problems. When this happens, a reasonable accommodation often will eliminate the problem. But what if the employee doesn’t ask for an accommodation? Can an employer raise the issue without running afoul of the ADA?

In response to numerous performance-related questions from employers, the EEOC released a detailed guide to help employers apply performance and conduct standards to employees with disabilities. Here’s a summary of the EEOC’s recommendations.

Employers should apply the same requirements and performance standards to disabled employees that they do to all workers. Even though disabled employees may require accommodations to meet those requirements, the requirements should be the same for everyone. As with any performance standard, employers should give clear guidance regarding the quality and quantity of work and the timetables for producing it.

When evaluating employees, the same principle applies: Employees with disabilities should receive an objective appraisal of their performance.

If someone’s disability leads to a performance problem, the objective appraisal (which need not raise the reasons for the performance problem) may prompt the employee to raise the issue of his or her disability and request an accommodation, but the employer should not broach the subject of disability.

If an employee requests an accommodation in response to a performance evaluation or discipline, the employer should begin the interactive process of finding a reasonable accommodation.

Just like other workers, disabled employees may be disciplined for violations of conduct rules, even if the violations result from the disability, so long as the rules result from a business necessity and are applied evenly to all workers.

The common denominator is neutrality: Set clear policies for all employees and adhere to them. For more information, visit