The Americans with Disabilities Act has been in place since 1990, but some employers are still confused about how to achieve ADA compliance. These tips can help you comply with the ADA and avoid lawsuits that could damage your business.
1. Remember That Anyone Can Have a Disability
Not all disabilities are obvious. Never assume that an employee isn't disabled because they don't use a wheelchair or seem able to move around unaided. When employees mention mental or physical health conditions that affect their work, you need to treat them according to the guidelines laid out in the ADA. Brushing off an employee's health needs as no big deal could lead to a lawsuit further down the line.
2. Follow the Official Process
The ADA lays out a clear process that employers should use when establishing an employee's needs and implementing measures to help the employee manage in the workplace. You need to go through the process of investigating whether it is possible to make reasonable accommodations for a disability, even if the eventual conclusion is that no reasonable accommodations are possible. Failing to follow correct procedure can open up your company to legal challenges from disgruntled employees. ADA compliance means not only coming to a fair solution, but also taking the correct route to get there.
3. Document Everything
In addition to undertaking the process of attempting to accommodate the employee, it's also important to document every step you take, even if it seems trivial. If a case does come to court, you need to have a solid body of evidence to prove ADA compliance. Therefore, you need to document every interaction with the disabled employee, even if it is just a quick conversation.
4. Treat Employees as Individuals
ADA compliance demands that companies avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with disabled employees. Each person must be treated as an individual. Even if two employees have the same condition, their needs in the workplace could be very different. Therefore, it's important to listen to what each employee has to say and respond accordingly, rather than trying to implement a set of standard accommodations to fit certain conditions.
5. Remember FMLA
ADA compliance can include compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which grants workers the right to sick leave under certain conditions. If employees are unable to return at the end of a period of FMLA leave, you can't just terminate their employment. Instead, you need to conduct an ADA analysis to assess whether the employee can be moved into a suitable alternative position.
Ensuring ADA compliance isn't always easy, but it's important if you want to avoid costly legal battles. By communicating with disabled employees and following the ADA process carefully, you can ensure that your organization remains ADA compliant.
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