ADA Interactive Process: How to Get Clear Medical Information
By Rachel Shaw, MBA
Shaw HR Consulting, Inc
Managing reasonable accommodation requests is complex. Every employee is different, work environments vary, and medical restrictions come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Mastering the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) interactive process includes understanding everything from what triggers the interactive process and how to hold an accommodations meeting, to dealing with challenges including leave management, discipline issues, and mental disabilities.
Regardless of the complexity or type of interactive process you enter, one thing is always essential — obtaining clear medical information. The key word here is “clear.”
At its core, the goals of any interactive process are to determine:
- Does the employee have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
- If there is a disability, could any accommodations be implemented that would support the employee to successfully and safely perform the essential functions of the job?
I’ve managed tens of thousands of disability compliance cases and have developed what I call a “hallway approach.” It’s a metaphorical hallway with four doors, or key process steps, which lead you through the hallway and to a justifiable decision and best possible outcome for an employee who may, or may not, need workplace accommodations. Each door serves as a step along the path of ADA compliance: Door #1, Medical Documentation; Door #2, Exploration of Accommodation Ideas; Door #3, Scheduling and Holding a Reasonable Accommodations Meeting; and Door #4, Closing the Process Properly.
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