Understanding Employer Obligations Under the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is in place to ensure that employees with disabilities are accommodated in the workplace. This means that employers must make reasonable accommodations so that disabled employees can carry out their role as easily as a person without a disability would be able to.

To do this, employers must:

  • Assess the job role and its various functions and demands to determine what might be required for a person to carry out the job successfully.
  • Work with their disabled employee to identify what issues they might face when trying to carry out the role so that any limitations and barriers can be recognized and support put in place to reduce or eliminate them.

These accommodations should help the employee perform the essential functions of the job. Furthermore, the interaction between employer and employee should enable the employee to have a say in what requirements they have and their preferences regarding the accommodations being made, in the hope this leads to a better, more collaborative decision-making process. This interaction for all employers of people with disabilities becomes mandatory as soon the disabled employee notifies their employer of their desire to be accommodated.

It is up to the employer to evaluate each accommodation and ascertain whether it would place undue hardships upon them. Failure to reasonably accommodate a disabled employee could lead to a discrimination charge.

According to the courts, an employer should:

Explore accommodation options in good faith: This means employers must be willing to listen to the requests and ideas of the employee and want to explore various options to ensure that the employee can perform their job successfully.

Communicate with the employee directly: Lines of communication must be open between the employer and employee with both parties in agreement to communicate with one another directly, and the employer must not try to delay discussion or make themselves unavailable to try to prevent or slow the process. The employee must also be willing to provide information and medical records concerning their disability to keep the process moving forward.

Demonstrate good faith: Demonstrating good faith means employers must make the process as simple and easy as possible for employees with regards to the paperwork and documentation involved, making time to discuss the accommodations, and training supervisors and other staff members to respond appropriately to reasonable accommodation requests.

Identify any barriers to job performance: Barriers to job performance can be both physical and mental, and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure they recognize these, thus enabling them to ascertain the specific limitations of any particular job role and therefore what can be done to remove them.

It is important to note that the ADA also states that employers should not force accommodations on disabled employees without consulting them first and deciding, with the employee, whether such accommodations would help make their job easier.

If an employer rejects an accommodation proposal from an employee, they should make a reasonable alternative suggestion. If not, it may be found that they did not engage in the interactive process, and if this is the case, the employer could face damages.

If you believe your boss isn’t doing enough to accommodate your needs, you may wish to seek professional counsel. Call DeWitt Law today at  614.398.2886 for a free, confidential consultation.

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DeWitt Law

Michael W. DeWitt is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer who has litigated cases in most Ohio counties and in various federal courts across the country. He has argued appellate matters in Ohio appellate courts, and in the Fourth and Sixth Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeal. After representing corporate clients in employment disputes for over 20 years, Mike now represents employees in harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and restrictive covenant cases and uses the knowledge gained from defending those cases to help clients evaluate and pursue their employment claims. He also represents business clients in breach of contract and other business disputes.

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About DeWitt Law

Michael W. DeWitt is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer who has litigated cases in most Ohio counties and in various federal courts across the country. He has argued appellate matters in Ohio appellate courts, and in the Fourth and Sixth Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeal. After representing corporate clients in employment disputes for over 20 years, Mike now represents employees in harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and restrictive covenant cases and uses the knowledge gained from defending those cases to help clients evaluate and pursue their employment claims. He also represents business clients in breach of contract and other business disputes.

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