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Thought Leadership In Action

How to Make Sure You’re ADA Compliant

The Americans with Disabilities Act is meant to protect the needs of people living with disabilities. Employers have responsibilities under the law to not discriminate against people with disabilities in all employment practices, including recruitment, hiring and firing, promotions and assignments, leave and pay.

Noncompliance can bring some heavy stakes.

“It’s important that you’re familiar with the nuances of the ADA and the ADA Amendments Act to keep your company in compliance and avoid costly lawsuits and penalties,” says Trey Taylor of Taylor Insurance Services.

Here are some tips to make sure you’re ADA compliant.

Establish (and Revisit) Your Policy

Your written policies and handbooks should specifically affirm your organization’s compliance with the ADA, particularly Titles I and III, says John Fagerholm, founding partner at M.E.T.A.L. Law Group. Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation to those with disabilities and Title III prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by businesses that serve the public.

If your company has more than 15 employees, it should have a system so that employees with disabilities can request reasonable accommodations that are attended to promptly, Fagerholm says. Ensure everyone has seen a copy of your policy, and revisit it frequently.

“To stay in compliance, review any new laws and understand if there are any differences between ADA laws and similar laws in your state,” Fagerholm says. “Typically state laws are more stringent.”

Update Your Job Descriptions

Job descriptions play a big role in ensuring compliance under Title I of the ADA, experts say. The reasonable accommodation clause is fairly subjective and may depend on the physical realities of the job or worksite. Clear job descriptions can help you determine whether an applicant can perform the job, with or without accommodation.

Keep job descriptions detailed, accurate and current, Taylor says. Document the essential functions of the job — those that can’t be handed off to someone else without altering the position entirely — and the working conditions people in the role face. These descriptions can help determine the kinds of reasonable accommodations that might need to be made.

Train Your Managers

Companies often run into trouble when an employee makes a request for accommodation and managers handle it poorly. It’s vital that organizations train managers to understand the processes they must follow, says Laurie Brednich, CEO of HR Company Store.

“Problems come up when an employee raises an issue that could be a disability, which the supervisor does not communicate to others so that, if disciplinary action is taken against the employee in the future, the employee may claim retaliation,” she says.

Other risks include the manager being held personally liable for not managing the leave correctly, or accommodations not being made consistently, Brednich says.

Some of the things managers need to know include:
  • How to identify a request and what the next steps are. “For example, an employee does not need to specifically ask for an ADA accommodation,” Brednich says.
  • How to properly interact with an employee when a request has been made.
  • How to document the request.
  • How all leave of absence laws and policies, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and any short— or long-term disability policies, work together.
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