Workflow for the ADA Interactive Process
By Geoffrey Simpson
Director of Sales & Marketing
Understanding how to accommodate employees properly under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act is challenging for employers. Each case must be assessed individually, yet managed equitably.
This entails developing a best-practice workflow to guide you through the interactive accommodation process; having this process provides the consistency to be equitable and the flexibility to manage the nuances of individual cases.
First, you need to identify the data, systems, and tools you use to accommodate employees, such as case management systems, job banks, disability guidelines, job descriptions, essential functions, and an inventory of your adaptive equipment. Mapping out your full spectrum of resources will set you on the right path to determine the mix of tools needed.
Second, identify your key stakeholders and their responsibilities; they can provide information and support during the interactive process and may even help identify a need for accommodation. Stakeholders commonly include, but are not limited to, managers, HR business partners, and safety/workers’ compensation professionals. Knowing and working with your stakeholders will help you determine where each fits within your accommodation process.
As you build out the accommodation process for your organization, use the following steps as a guideline, adapting them as needed to fit your specific requirements.
- Recognize the need to accommodate. Identify who in your organization can make an accommodation request and common reasons for them. It might be that most requests come at the end of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leaves or they come from stay-at-work accommodation requests employees make directly to their managers. Awareness of these triggers will allow you to determine the most effective and efficient request process, focus training efforts, and minimize the risk of accommodations falling through the cracks.
- Gather information. Before determining how to accommodate, engage all stakeholders in the process and assemble information such as restrictions and essential job functions. When you have all available information, you can make informed accommodation decisions.
- Analyze the impact of restrictions on essential functions. How do your employee’s restrictions affect performance of essential functions? Meet with the employee, their manager, and others to fully understand the job, whether the employee can safely and effectively perform the essential tasks, and if alternative accommodations are needed.
- Propose and evaluate accommodations. What type of accommodation — modified duty, transitional assignment, workplace modification, or leave — might be effective? Consider all types of potential accommodations to reduce the risk of placing an “undue hardship” on the employer.
- Determine the accommodation. Step 4 might involve several iterations to reach an accommodation that satisfies everyone. Remember the employer has the ultimate choice among effective accommodations. After choosing, implement the accommodation while clearly identifying follow-up and next steps.
- Monitor accommodations. The first accommodation may not be as effective as anticipated; consider other options to restore an employee to their original position. Often, you need to look at this as an iterative process; keep circling back to Step 2 if you find yourself progressing through multiple accommodations. Insert deadlines and reminders to ensure a case doesn’t get forgotten or an accommodation is not left in place longer than necessary.
- Program exit. Continue to cycle through accommodations until you reach a permanent accommodation, restrictions are lifted, or termination is the only option after making your best effort.
Mapping out your accommodation process helps you give effective, individual consideration to each employee. Consistent processes facilitate data collection for spotting trends, which supports continuous improvement of your accommodation program.