Providing reasonable accommodations to disabled workers is a key requirement under the American with Disabilities Act, yet what qualifies as a reasonable accommodation continues to be a gray area for many businesses. The employer is able to pick what accommodations can be, but what if the disabled worker disagrees with the suggestion? Effective employee management is an important duty of any HR department, but HR professionals must also consider employment regulations and what is best for the business. According to a recent article in TLNT, HR professionals should understand how leave periods for disabled workers fits in with the reasonable accommodation obligation in the ADA, and that means having a solid grasp on what this requirement means for employers and how it impacts them.
Know What a 'Reasonable Accommodation' Looks Like
In an article for Benefits Pro, Eric Meyer, a partner in the labor and employment department at law firm Dilworth Paxson, wrote the ADA only requires employers to accommodate a worker's disability in the workplace so that the employee is able to perform his or her job's fundamental responsibilities without causing "undue hardship for the employer." In essence, if an employer provides a disabled worker with an accommodation that allows him or her to still perform his or her duties, then it is in compliance with the ADA – even if the employer doesn't provide the disabled staff member's preferred accommodation.
Leave time fits in with this, according to the TLNT article, because a disabled worker may think that he or she needs to take leave to be able to perform his or her duties. According to TLNT, an employer in Kansas allowed a worker with cancer to take six months of leave because of her disability. However, when the employee asked for another six months, the employer said no and instead said the worker could take long-term disability, which TLNT notes means the employer terminated the worker. The employee stated this was a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, which the article suggests is equivalent to the ADA, and sued. However, this worker not only lost the initial court case but the appeal as well. The appeals court said that reasonable accommodation is meant to keep the employee working, and the worker didn't work from home or part time. In addition, the six months that were given were determined to be more than adequate.
When it comes to employee management, HR professionals should keep workers' needs in mind, but shouldn't back down if employees' requests are unreasonable or something that the company can't do.