The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is in place to protect people with qualifying disabilities against discrimination in many areas of daily living: transportation, public accommodations, protection from discrimination in the workplace, and to provide access to disability-specific programs and services offered by the government.
Many businesses and employers think this means making significant changes and exceptions to their business processes and procedures. However, there is no need to fear. Regarding accommodations in the workplace, the ADA requires that the concessions made by the employer for the employee be reasonable. This will likely not affect the company’s bottom line in many cases.
Is there anything I can do to abide by the ADA and avoid a lawsuit?
Yes. Businesses have significant control over how they can work within the ADA guidelines while maintaining their processes, goals and profitability. In addition:
- Businesses should remember that providing accommodations does not necessarily mean moving the “bottom line” in terms of the company’s expectations of profitability and success. Instead, the company is allowing a change in how the employee gets to where the company expects them to.
- Employers should strive to work with the employee to find a solution so that the employee feels comfortable and heard, while the employer can either create or maintain an individual set of expectations for that employee that benefits the company.
- Communicate expectations. Employers must discuss openly with the employee what the expectations are for the role the employee is filling so that it is clearly understood. Communicating this information in writing is often a good idea to avoid misunderstandings.
- Companies can discuss their specific internal policies with an employment attorney to ensure compliance with the ADA and feel at ease in hiring people with disabilities.
Can an employee demand specific solutions to address their disability?
No. The law has made it clear that employees cannot make demands of their employers. Still, it asks both the employer and employee to facilitate a space to develop a reasonable solution.
Training management in every department on the specifics of ADA can be extremely helpful in preventing lawsuits because it ensures that every decision-maker in the company is on the same page and can approve or deny accommodations without fear.