ADA Compliance – Some Major Tips


Step 1: See the Value

Employees can sense when company leaders are just going through the motions, even if HR says all the right words.

1 in 5
U.S. adults has a disability.
Source: Job Accommodation Network

There are also less tangible, but no less important, benefits for the corporate culture.

Step 2: Put It in Writing

Make sure you have a formal policy on workplace accommodations. Key points that the document should cover include:

Basic information on the ADA. Don’t assume employees know their rights. Explain the statute in broad terms, but avoid outlining examples of what would and would not be approved.

Create guidelines for submitting a request. Gather accommodation request information from an employee, preferably in a face-to-face meeting with an HR representative. Requiring employees to submit a request form is fine, but it is no substitute for talking in person or by phone. This exchange is known as the “interactive process.”  Be sure to collect information on the challenges the employee is having on the job and any accommodations that he or she suggests.

Documentation from an employee’s doctor may not be necessary.

It can be requested later if needed to the appropriate point of contact. It’s best to designate one person or unit in the HR department to receive and manage all accommodation requests.

This approach provides more consistency and ensures that HR is apprised of all related circumstances. and communication standards. Explain what, when and how HR will communicate with the employee about his or her request.

Step 3: Get Job Descriptions in Order

Job descriptions should be as specific as possible, tailored to your organization and updated periodically to ensure accuracy. Make sure new hires attest that they have read and received a copy of their job description during onboarding process and advise managers to review job descriptions with employees as part of their annual performance evaluation.

Don’t be afraid to ask employees to provide feedback on their essential job functions each year, make any necessary changes and have them sign the document.

Step 4: Train, Train, Train

Even the best procedures are of no use if managers and staff don’t know about them. Accommodation policies should be part of onboarding training, and managers and supervisors should understand how to recognize and react to employees’ needs.

of disabilities are not easily noticeable
Source: Job Accommodation Network

Other points managers and supervisors need to understand: Even a casual conversation between employee and supervisor can qualify as “awareness” under the ADA.

Step 5: Evaluate the Right Things

Don’t focus on the validity of the employee’s claim. Instead, hone in on the disability’s relation to the employee’s essential job functions and the practicality of available accommodations. The ADA requires that employers make “reasonable accommodation” to allow covered individuals to perform the essential job functions unless accommodation creates an “undue hardship” for the employer. Undue hardship can include costs relative to the size and revenues of the company, impacts on production volume or quality, and disruption in the workplace.

An accommodation request is never closed … check in with the employee and manager regularly to see how the accommodation is working out.

Often, workers will have their own ideas about modifications that could work, but the employer is ultimately responsible for researching equipment, tools and costs.

Step 6: Document and Communicate

Record-keeping should be initiated as soon as the request is brought to HR’s attention and should continue throughout an employee’s tenure. To ensure employee privacy, it’s a good idea to maintain a separate confidential file for the accommodation process rather than including that information in the employee’s personnel file.

Communication is key!

Without regular updates, employees can feel forgotten and suspicious of the company’s intentions. Telephone and in-person updates feel more personal; just be sure to document the conversation afterward and provide a copy to the employee.

Step 7: Follow Up Regularly

An accommodation request is never closed. Even after the change is approved and implemented, check in with the employee and manager regularly to see how the accommodation is working out. Don’t assume everything is fine just because no one is complaining to HR!

A follow-up schedule can lengthen over time. For example, it may make sense to check in with the worker and the manager a few weeks after initial implementation, followed by quarterly meetings during the first year. Going forward, an accommodation check-in should become part of the person’s annual performance review. Be sure the employee and manager know they can bring any changes or issues regarding the disability or accommodation to HR’s attention at any time. And of course, document all follow-up measures in the confidential file.