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Making reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities

Most employers in Kentucky understand that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. What may be less clear, however, is what it means to make reasonable accommodations.

In today's post, we will explain what a reasonable accommodation is and break down what steps employers can take to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. We will also provide examples to help you achieve a better understanding what you can do to comply with the law.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability is one that makes an effort to accommodate the needs of the employee but does not cause undue hardship to the employer. Examples of undue hardship include accommodations that are disruptive to the workplace or other employees, cause financial hardship, or change the way the business operates.

6 steps for identifying reasonable accommodations

All employers who are covered by the ADA must inform their employees of their rights under the ADA. While it is required by law, notifying your employees of your rights can also lead to a better understanding of what reasonable accommodations may exist for their specific job functions. Next, consider the following steps:

  1. Talk to your employees who need accommodations. The best way to understand what accommodations are necessary is to talk to the person who needs them. It is quite possible that an employee will have specific requests or know from past experiences what adjustments make a job doable.
  2. Review the job and its duties. Make sure the job's description accurately details the primary functions of the job, including any equipment that is necessary. Try to think in terms of the job itself rather the person fulfilling it. For example, product shipments need to be unloaded, not a person needs to lift boxes. This can help you come up with creative ideas for accommodations.
  3. Understand your employee's limitations. Talk with your employee about what their functional limitations are and what duties of their job they impact. Try to focus less on the employee's specific condition and more on the physical limitations. For example, an employee with a back problem may be unable to sit for long periods of time. Consider how to accommodate a need to minimize sitting.
  4. Come up with some options. After you have analyzed the job functions and what physical limitations are preventing your employee from being able to fully perform them, think of reasonable options. In the example above, a standing desk may solve the problem.
  5. Determine the most reasonable solution. Now that you know the definition of a reasonable accommodation, consider what makes the most sense of the options you have come with and put it into place.
  6. Monitor how well it is working. After implementing the accommodation, keep an eye on how well it is working. The best way to do this is to talk to your employee. Has the solution you decided on made it possible for your employee to do their job? Are there still problems? Your employee can give you the feedback you need to determine whether the adjustment you made worked or whether you need to consider a different solution.

Examples of reasonable accommodations

While you now have a better understanding of the process for coming up with and implementing accommodations for employees with disabilities, it can still be difficult to find creative solutions if you're not used to thinking about them. Sometimes, examples can be helpful. Here are a few examples of reasonable accommodations that employers can make:

  • Modifying work schedules
  • Making your workplace fully accessible
  • Reassigning the employee to an open position that is a better fit and that the employee is qualified for
  • Modifying existing equipment or acquiring new equipment
  • Updating policies, tests or training materials

Ensure compliance by speaking with a lawyer

The best way to ensure you are in compliance with the ADA is to speak with an experienced employment law attorney. An attorney can review your specific situation and help you determine whether you have made reasonable accommodations.

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