Compliance Showcase: ADA Documentation

DMEC Staff@Work

Three Keys to ADA Success: Document, Document, Document

By Tamika Newson, JD

AVP & Legal Counsel
Unum

If you work in human resources (HR) long enough, you no doubt will have to respond when an employee requests an accommodation to stay on the job. And, as you probably know if your company has 15 or more employees, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says you can’t discriminate against a qualified employee based on a disability, whether it’s caused by an accident or illness or other condition that occurred on or off the job.

Unfortunately, many employers make basic — and costly — mistakes when considering and responding to these requests; some have had to pay multimillion-dollar settlements and judgments in recent years because they fell short of ADA requirements for accommodating employees with disabilities.

One of the most common mistakes is the failure to thoroughly document the steps in the process. From a legal perspective, if you can’t prove a conversation or action took place, it never happened. Whether your files are paper or electronic, you must be able to produce the details. The employee’s manager is involved in many aspects of the interactive accommodation process. Your job as an integrated absence management (IAM) or HR professional is to direct the interactive accommodation process. But the employee’s manager is involved in many aspects of it too, so you will need the manager’s support to document many interactions.

Here are the top five documentation mistakes employers make when it comes to ADA compliance — and most importantly, how to avoid them.

1) Not Recognizing and Properly Documenting Requests for Accommodations

If an employee is having trouble meeting performance expectations, you and the employee’s manager need to identify the reason. If the employee has an alleged mental or physical basis for the performance deficiencies, consider if it could be an ADA issue. Ask what barriers the employee is facing and what could be done to overcome them. Be sure you and the employee’s manager document every conversation with the employee.

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