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Managing ADA Accommodations - The Interactive Process is a MUST

Managing ADA Accommodations - The Interactive Process is a MUST

January 11, 2024
Post by
Justin Lobdell

Do you truly have to offer an interactive process for employees when managing their ADA accommodations?

Answer: YES! The Americans with Disabilities Act requires an interactive process as a key component of the accommodation process. This should consist of a documented exchange between an employer and an employee to determine if the employee requires a reasonable accommodation to perform their job duties and what accommodation may be needed. This ADA-mandated process should be done in good faith and with integrity.

Here are some key components of the interactive process:

  1. Initiation: When an employee requests an accommodation or when the employer becomes aware of the need for an accommodation, they should promptly initiate the interactive process. *Note that the employee need not mention the ADA or "reasonable accommodation" when requesting an accommodation; it’s up to the employer to properly train staff to recognize an accommodation request.
  2. Communication: Both the employer and the employee should engage in open and honest communication. This involves discussing the nature and limitations of the disability, the specific and essential job requirements, and potential accommodations. *Best practice is to document all steps and communication to demonstrate legal compliance (ideally in a software solution).
  3. Documentation: Employers may request relevant documentation to support the need for an accommodation. This could include verification or input from a health care provider. However, employers must be cautious about requesting excessive or unnecessary medical information, as this could violate privacy laws. *Please ensure you are storing PHI in a HIPAA compliant manner.
  4. Evaluation of Options: The employer and employee should work together to explore potential accommodations. This may involve considering various options to find a solution that meets the employee's needs without causing undue hardship to the employer. Employers are not required to offer the accommodation requested by the employee; accommodations need only be reasonable. *There are numerous resources (including generative AI platforms) to assist with researching and executing accommodation options.
  5. Implementation and Follow-up: Once an accommodation is agreed upon, it should be implemented in a timely manner. Additionally, both parties should remain open to revisiting the accommodation if the employee's needs change or if the initial accommodation proves to be ineffective.

Failure to engage in the interactive process in good faith could be viewed as a violation of the ADA. Employers are encouraged to approach the process with flexibility and a willingness to find effective solutions that allow employees with disabilities to perform their job duties.

It's important to consult with legal or HR professionals to ensure compliance with specific laws and regulations related to ADA accommodations in your jurisdiction.

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