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Reasonable Accommodation Process

Workplace Accommodations – Year End is the The Perfect Time to Review Company Policies and Procedures.

December 2021, by ShaunTeah L. Radcliffe, CPDM

What exactly is a reasonable workplace accommodation? A reasonable accommodation is a temporary or permanent change to the job or hiring process that allows an employee or applicant to perform the job’s essential functions and enjoy equal access to employment opportunities that do not cause undue hardship or direct threat to the employer or employee. You are probably saying, well, that’s a mouthful, give it to me in laymen’s terms.

How about we discuss some examples of reasonable workplace accommodations instead? Some examples include the following:

  • Allowing a service/support animal to accompany the employee to work to aid with anxiety triggers.
  • Providing a stool for an employee with a knee problem to take sitting breaks while they still work the register
  • Allowing a pregnant employee to take additional breaks for hydration
  • Providing reserved parking for an employee with a heart condition because the regular walk from the employee parking aggravates the employee’s condition
  • Aiding a vision-impaired applicant with the application process
  • Providing alternate methods for online training or presentation of materials

So how do we execute a process to ensure that our workplace accommodations are reasonable and support the organization’s needs and allow the employee to perform the essential functions of their job without causing undue hardship?

  1. Identify the potential workplace accommodation request – Disability disclosure should always be acknowledged. Managers and HR Professionals should be trained regularly to identify potential accommodation concerns. The employee does not have to explicitly request an accommodation. Managers should be aware of behavior changes or dialogue that may indicate a concern. (see my previous blog on this topic here)
  2. Initiate an interactive dialogue – now that we have identified a concern, we need to initiate a conversation to understand any potential barriers and how they may be addressed. This conversation should include both the manager and the employee. The discussion should be an information gathering session to understand the barriers and the job functions and inform the manager, employee, or applicant what to expect during the process.
  3. Obtain documentation – some accommodations are quick, simple, and easy if the accommodation is obvious. If the accommodation is not obvious, you may need to request documentation from the employee’s medical provider.
  4. Continue interactive dialogue – Accommodations are not one size fits all, and requests should be reviewed individually. Once medical documentation has been received, continue interactive discussions with the manager, employee, or applicant to clarify any questions and discuss potential accommodations. Agree on an accommodation that is reasonable and effective. A best practice is always to ensure that the parties understand what to expect as you move through the process.
  5. Implement and monitor the accommodation – Accommodations may be implemented on a trial basis and adjusted as changes to the workplace or the employee’s condition changes. Interactive dialogue should be ongoing to ensure that the accommodation remains effective. Make adjustments to the approved accommodation as new information becomes available.
  6. Document, Document, Document – Maintain accurate and detailed records of discussions regarding the accommodation.

If you still need assistance, many resources are available for navigating workplace accommodations, such as the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) that provides free expert and confidential guidance for workplace accommodations.  

ShaunTeah Radcliffe

ShaunTeah L. Radcliffe, CPDM is a subject matter expert in absence and disability management with more than 10 years of professional experience in managing and training professionals to ensure compliance and resolution of complex leave of absence and workplace accommodation requests. ShaunTeah is a contributor to the development of IEA’s newly revamped Certified Professional in Disability Management (CPDM) curriculum

About IEA

The Insurance Education (IEA) is the leading provider of professional development programs in Workers’ Compensation, Disability Management, Risk Management and Human Resources.