The HR point of view
Cory Christmas, training manager at Baker Donelson, has worked in human resources for over 15 years, and he still remembers his first role with managerial responsibilities and advice that he received and still uses today. . Cory’s manager told him, “Cory, now that you’re part of the management team, you’re going to have to pay more attention to conversations that you might be involved in.” I have a ruler I live with when it comes to workplace conversations. Cory opened his notepad, returned to a blank page, and prepared to record his manager’s advice, “Don’t comment or ask people questions about things they can’t change for them.” topic in five minutes. This will prevent you from entering the HR office to defend your intention against what someone else might have interpreted. And that was his HR training – every 60 seconds.
For the past 15 years, Cory has taken his director’s advice to heart. But the first time he broke the rule, he almost found himself on the wrong side of HR guidelines for employee accommodations. He discovered, simply by observation, that he had a direct bearing on what he expected to be visually impaired. The quality of the employee’s work was excellent, but he noticed that the employee had leaned very close to the PC screen. Cory thought, “Hey, I’m gonna be a nice guy and see if I can get a bigger monitor or a screen magnifier.” He asked his manager how he could go about obtaining additional material. She briefly stopped him in his tracks – and explained to him how employee accommodation works; they start with a request from the employee, not the other way around.
Legal Perspective – ADA Accommodation Requests
Cory’s manager was partly right about the requests for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOCs Application Guidelines: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Predicts that “generally, the disabled person – who has the most knowledge about the need for reasonable accommodation – must inform the employer that an accommodation is necessary. Â»The request can be made orally or in writing. The employee does not need to use âmagicâ language when requesting, refer to ADA or even use the term âreasonable accommodationâ. The demand does not mean that the employer is needed to provide the change; rather, the request is the first step in an informal and interactive process between employee and employer. Nevertheless, the EEOC notes that there may come a time when the employer must initiate the interactive process of reasonable accommodation without being asked by the employee. This should happen if the employer (1) knows the employee has a disability; (2) knows, or has reason to know, that the employee is having problems at work because of their disability and (3) knows, or has reason to know, that the disability prevents the employee from seeking reasonable accommodation.
Whether it is the employee or the employer who initiates it, the interactive process requires (1) direct communication between the employer and the employee to explore in good faith the possible accommodations; (2) reviewing the employee’s request and (3) providing reasonable and effective accommodation.
So, should Cory have started the interactive process even if the employee had not requested an accommodation? The answer is no. In this scenario, it was not notified that the employee had a disability. Second, Cory had no indication that the employee’s alleged disability – a visual impairment – interfered with the employee’s ability to perform his essential duties. In fact, he noted that the quality of the employee’s work was excellent. Finally, there was nothing to indicate that the employee’s alleged disability prevented him from requesting reasonable accommodation himself.
While Cory’s situation did not trigger the employer’s obligation to initiate the interactive process under the ADA, employers should recognize that this obligation Is it that exist and that the employee is not the only party who may need to initiate the accommodation process under the ADA.