Americans with Disabilities Act

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Properly managing employee leaves of absence and workplace accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is essential not only for legal compliance, but also to ensure consistency, manage expectations, enable the smooth flow of operational processes, and maintain employee satisfaction and retention.  Managers and supervisors are very often on the “front lines” with these issues because employees typically go to their supervisors first when they need leave or other accommodations.  Because managers and supervisors are the eyes and ears of the company – and their knowledge is imputed to the company – providing training to managers and supervisors on how to spot, respond to and manage ADA issues is critical.  The goal of training is to support managers and supervisors by equipping them to identify potential ADA issues and know when to proactively partner with HR to address these situations.

The application of the ADA to an employee’s request for an accommodation involves several important components.  The “rules” also vary depending on whether the situation involves an applicant (pre-employment) or an existing employee.  The threshold issue is whether the employee has a “disability” under the ADA.  Next, the employer must determine whether the employee is a qualified under the ADA (i.e. qualified to do the job).  If so, the ADA then requires employers to engage in what is called the “interactive” process to explore what, if any, accommodations may be available and reasonable, as well as any potential undue hardship on business operations.  Sometimes, managers might be concerned that an employee is a threat of harm to himself or others because of a physical or mental condition, even where the employee has not requested any medical accommodations.  The ADA places some limitations on the types of medical information that can be requested in each of these situations, so it is especially important that HR be involved in the interactive process. 

Finally, the ADA provides employees with legal remedies against employers for non-compliance.  These include claims for discrimination (being treated differently because of an actual or perceived disability), failure to accommodate, and retaliation.  Retaliation claims can be particularly challenging to defend, and again underscore the importance of providing managers and supervisors with ADA training.

Key Resources

For your convenience, ACC has compiled the following key resources to assist you in your compliance efforts.

For more try searching ACC's online library for "Americans with Disabilities Act"

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