We are willing to bet that every employer has an employee that can be classified as disabled as that term is defined under state and federal law. The result is that employers must have an understanding of how to address reasonable accommodation requests or needs that will allow an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her position. Because reasonable accommodation requests are determined on a case-by-case basis there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, there are certain guidelines and best practices that can be routinely provided to better ensure compliance. These general guidelines are as follows:
Fist, engage the employee in a good faith interactive process when any issue arises with regard to a request, or need for a reasonable accommodation. This process requires honest and open communication between an employer and the employee to explore whether or not there is a need for a “reasonable accommodation” to allow the employee to effectively perform “the essential functions of the job” and to establish what those accommodations must be.
During the interactive process the employer must know which job functions are essential to the position. These “essential job functions or duties” are the cornerstone for determining any accommodation and allows the employer to make the required individualized assessment. Further, when making the assessment the employer must focus on the nature of the employee’s restrictions as it relates to the employee’s position, not the disability or medical condition itself.
In sum, understanding and discussing the specific facts in any given situation as it relates to how the employee’s condition affects his or her job performance and the employer’ s business needs is vital when addressing a reasonable accommodation request.
Employers that want to better understand their rights and obligations regarding employees who have a disability, and that need to implement a policy or procedure related to such requests, are encouraged to contact the knowledgeable employment attorneys at Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A.