ADA something to be vigilant about

16 Dec

Reasonable accommodation should be foremost in the minds of employers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act can be tricky to understand. Companies that recognize the way it works can use it when determining whether to give someone reasonable accommodation as part of the company's overall human resource solutions or not. Meanwhile, other businesses that don't understand the policies can run into problems because they fail to comply with the ADA.

The Erie County Department of Social Services is an example of a company that did not implement the rules correctly, according to HR Morning. A worker there, Margaret Pascale, had an amputated leg and needed a dedicated printer so she wouldn't have to leave the desk as often to get the printouts she required to do her job.

She requested the printer under the ADA and received a certification from her doctor saying she was disabled. However, the doctor's letter did not include anything about needing reasonable accommodation. As such, she was not given the printer.

She sued and won. The reason is that the managers should have determined for themselves if a reasonable accommodation was necessary for helping her do her job, and as such, ought to have recognized that she needed her own printer.

Another example of a company that didn't understand ADA
One more company that failed to provide ADA accommodation when it should have known better was the Metropolitan Detroit Center for Independent Living, reported in a separate HR Morning article. The organization denied a deaf employee reasonable accommodation and eventually fired him for being unable to hear. The former employee sued and the company paid a settlement of $38,500.

One would have expected a business that helps disabled people for a living to understand ADA rules, but this was not the case.

Another company failed to accommodate a worker who was undergoing cancer treatments. The Angel Medical Center in North Carolina paid a settlement of $85,000 to its former employee who worked satisfactorily from December 2009 to December 2011 when she had to begin chemotherapy. She requested to return to work with reasonable accommodation, but was fired instead.

As part of the settlement, the hospital must now revise its ADA application process so that people are not denied reasonable accommodation ever again.

What businesses can do
Companies that want to avoid the dangers of failed compliance can talk to a lawyer about whether reasonable accommodation is appropriate or not, but when in doubt if the accommodation is just providing an extra printer, it may be wise to avoid the expense of a lawyer along with possible litigation and just make the accommodation.

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