In Texas, and around the country, the number of workers with disabilities is increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of children diagnosed with conditions covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act is on the rise. As these generations enter and promote within the workforce, employers will need an understanding of how to accommodate them. Age can also be a factor in the increased rates of employee disability. Individuals who remain in the workforce into retirement age may be more likely than younger workers to have qualifying conditions. Below, our blog covers five steps for addressing and accommodating employees with disabilities.
- Know your company’s policy: Ensure that your employee guidelines include clear policies for discussions that occur about the subject as well as the process for accommodations. If this is not already a separate, distinct policy, look into putting one in place. The policy should also include sections on documenting conditions, communicating employee requirements, and designating specific professionals (typically HR) to handle the employee’s communication and requests.
- Provide employee training: Legally, requesting accommodation is not always a black and white issue. A disability does not have to be documented in writing in order for it to be considered valid. As such, recognizing a request may be difficult when not presented in straightforward and clear terms. For example, if an employee mentions as a side note that they attended physical therapy in a way that affects their work, an employer may be judged as having prior knowledge of the disability. Training management and supervisory personnel can greatly assist with handling requests when they do occur.
- Maintain open communication: Properly addressing an employee’s request is not a one-time event. It is important to keep regular communication with the employee to note the effectiveness of any implemented accommodations. Has the employee’s health changed? Do additional actions need to be taken? When do you likely need to follow up? Constant dialogue can help to answer these questions and promote the continuation of a good working relationship.
- Work on a case-by-case basis: Once an executive, manager, or HR professional learns of an employee’s disability, action must be taken to understand if accommodations are required. While it is helpful to set a standard process by which accommodations are addressed, each request must be given individualized attention. Every case will contain unique factors. Do not assume that a past approach in a similar situation will work or apply to the case at hand.
- Keep detailed records: It is critically important to document every interaction you have relating to an employee’s disability or accommodation. If a dispute arises in the future, you may never know what information will be important. To this end, it is difficult to collect too much information. Even if an interaction was brief, take note of what occurred.
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If you would like more information about implementing strategies for addressing employee disabilities or if you are currently involved in a dispute, do not hesitate to contact Shellist Lazarz Slobin. Our Houston employment law attorneys are board-certified in employment law and are highly respected within the legal world and by past clients. We can work with you through each step of the legal process to see that your company’s interests remain protected.
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