#Nextchat: Accommodating Disabilities in the Workplace


In the United States, one out of every five adults has a disability, according to a 2015 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with disabilities must deal with discrimination on a daily basis at places such as restaurants and grocery stores, and even while simply trying to hail a taxi, but one place they should never have to encounter it is in the workplace.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects qualified individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.   

A reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes to a position or workplace that will enable an employee to do his or her job despite having a disability.

The problem is that not all organizations have the information, policies or training in place to make accommodating an employee with a disability a smooth process. And working out the kinks can cause big headaches for both the employee and HR—and can ultimately lead to a lawsuit.

It’s important that employers train managers and supervisors on how to address disability accommodation requests. Accommodation requests will vary in their complexity. In the blog post ADA and Accommodating Peanut Allergies at Work, employment attorney Eric B. Meyer reiterates that “the only way you can get out of providing a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability is if the accommodation isn’t actually reasonable; but rather, would create undue hardship. Undue hardship is something that creates significant difficulty or expense.”

Additionally, what might seem like an accommodation, such as requiring an employee with a disability to stay out of work until he or she is 100 percent healed, can also be viewed by the courts as a violation of the ADA.

In the blog post A Message from Stevie Wonder on Providing Accommodations to Individuals with Disabilities, Meyer reminds employers that “with disability discrimination claims spiking in 2015, not knowing the basics could make you a statistic this year.”

Do you have a disability-accommodation policy, and do you train your supervisors and managers on how to address disability-accommodation requests? Does your anti-harassment policy and respect-in-the-workplace training address treatment of employees with disabilities? 

Please join @shrmnextchat at 3 p.m. ET on February 24 for #Nextchat with special guest Eric B. Meyer (@Eric_B_Meyer). We’ll discuss best practices that will help employers effectively administer the ADA and accommodate employees with disabilities.

Q1. What are the first steps an employer should take when an employee asks for an ADA accommodation?

Q2. What are some common mistakes employers make when working with an employee to identify a reasonable accommodation?

Q3. What are some best practices for ensuring an interactive process when discussing accommodations with employees with disabilities?

Q4. How can an employer determine if an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on its business?

Q5. Can an employee’s performance affect an employer’s decision whether to provide an accommodation? Why or why not?

Q6. What ADA issues do employers typically struggle with the most?

Q7. What documentation mistakes are most common with ADA requests for accommodation or subsequent denials?

Q8. How can employers improve their internal practices to avoid ADA-related complaints and legal action?



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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