Imagine this: You walk into your office on a Monday morning, and sitting on your desk is an official claim from one of your employees requesting a disability accommodation that you believe is completely unfounded. What do you do next? This situation doesn’t come up often, but managers can be caught off-guard by an ADA claim (especially for small businesses), and they may not be quite sure what to do.
The first and best piece of advice is to not freak out. The EEOC has developed a strong program with clear guidelines and procedures once an employee submits a claim under Executive Order 13164. The EEOC is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants for employment, to ensure that everyone can enjoy equal access to all employment opportunities. That’s why you need to take these matter seriously and be diligent about following.
It’s smart to brush up on what types of common accommodations the EEOC looks at, so that you can be prepared for any claims that may come up. The more knowledgeable you are on the subject, the better you’ll be able to defend your stance on any claims actually made by your employees.
There is a wealth of information on the EEOC website, and depending on the type of claim filed, common types of accommodations include the following:
Once the EEOC receives a claim, they process it fairly promptly, according to the timeframes posted on their website. As a manager, you need to know that the EEOC takes all claims very seriously, and you should comply with the types of recommendations they make. If you disagree with their decision, you can appeal it within 10 business days through a process with the Director of the Office of Human Resources.
There are many common misconceptions about the ADA and disability claims.
Many people think that there is an excess of claims and that workers try to use them to take advantage of businesses and sue their employers. In fact, that is very far from the truth. There have only been only about 650 lawsuits in the past five years, out of the more than 6 million businesses required to comply.
Also, when the ADA rules that businesses must make changes, they are usually given a generous time frame to do so, and are encouraged to develop a long-range plan for compliance. And any accommodation that would result in “undue hardship” on an employer is not required.
Many people also think that the ADA forces companies to hire unqualified people because they have disabilities. That is also far from the truth, because if an applicant does not have the skills and abilities needed for a job, he or she cannot claim that any discrimination has taken place.
For more myths and facts about ADA claims, and the information you’ll need if an employee files a claim, visit ADA.gov.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, I don’t practice law and I don’t have a J.D. Use this information as a guide and not as a replacement for legal advice. You can find more information about ADA claims by visiting the EEOC website.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.