By Rene Gates, MBA, PMP, CSM
Executive VP, Optis
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates that federal contractors do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities and that they make a concerted effort to hire these individuals. In addition to this clause, the regulations contain specific data collection requirements that contractors must follow in their recruiting process. Specifically, they are required to examine the number of applicants with disabilities that apply for their open positions, and the number of applicants with disabilities that were hired. This data must be collected on an annual basis and retained for three years to identify trends, with the goal of 7% utilization for employing individuals with qualifying disabilities.1
Aside from collecting recruiting data in the federal contractor space, we know that employers with 15 or more employees are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.) What other data elements should disability managers be collecting and documenting if an employee with a disability requests an accommodation or a job applicant self-identifies? Contractors must invite self-identification at multiple points in the process, and employees must be invited every five years at a minimum.
First, let me emphasize the number one best practice in the interactive accommodation process is communication and evaluating each accommodation request on a case-by-case basis. What may work for one individual might not work for another, even if the disabilities are the same and the employees have similar positions. Accommodation solutions may even vary across different work locations, so examine each situation individually.
A crucial step in building out your accommodation process is documenting the essential job functions for every position in the organization. Ensure these functions are clearly stated in each job description. Having this information documented before an accommodation is requested will streamline the process so that more emphasis can be placed on assessing each employee’s unique abilities, rather than marking check-boxes on a list.
Make certain that work restrictions are documented in detail. If the employee has a visual impairment, document the distance he/she can see, or if the employee has a lifting restriction, make sure you document the weight. This information will be helpful if the accommodation needs to be adjusted in the future. Clearly document the type of accommodation offered for each restriction, including any costs or third party vendors utilized.
Keep an eye on dates. Set alerts or reminders to keep the interactive process moving forward. Today, there are no hard deadlines around ADA regulations, as with the FMLA, but the EEOC has advised that employers should respond “expeditiously” to requests for accommodation. Also, if the disability is temporary, set a reminder for quarterly or annual check-ins with the employee to touch base.2
Making documentation and data accessible, through central storage and ensuring all data is in compatible formats, is a best practice in any disability management program. When documentation and data are fully accessible, they can be used to streamline your internal and external audits, and also to measure the effectiveness of your accommodation processes.
- United States Department of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/section503.htm
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html#requesting