Overlooked Assessment Tools to Assist with the ADA Accommodation Process
By Mike Milidonis, CEAS
National Ergonomics & Employer Services
Even before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many employers were already seeking positive stay-at-work (SAW) and return-to-work (RTW) outcomes for employees experiencing disabilities. The ADA accommodation process gives us fresh motivation to revisit two important tools for this effort: the physical demands analysis and the ergonomics assessment.
In more than 20 years in the leave management industry, over thousands of accommodations, I have seen many employers that wanted to return employees to their jobs yet did not know what those jobs specifically entailed. Often they knew a job’s responsibilities but didn’t know the essential job functions. Or if they had those functions outlined, they didn’t understand the physical demands entailed in performing the functions.
Many employers utilize job descriptions filed in their human resource (HR) departments as the basis for initiating the ADA accommodation process with the interactive dialogue. Job descriptions are a helpful place to start, yet many are generalized, summing up responsibilities and including blanket statements such as “must be able to lift 40 pounds” when the weight was only estimated and not actually measured.
These summary descriptions often may not break jobs down into essential duties and functions, as well as component tasks, and they don’t quantify the physical demands needed to perform each task. Since they lack this level of specificity, they often fall short in providing the information needed to make an appropriate accommodation, which could result in injury or furtherance of the presenting medical and/or psychological condition.
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