There is little disagreement regarding the importance of employing persons with disabilities. However, things become sticky when determining what is considered “reasonable accommodation” for a disabled person. The inherent subjectivity in terms like ‘reasonable accommodation’ and ‘undue hardship’ make it hard for both employers and employees to choose the right course of action. Unfortunately, in some cases this results in a reluctance to employ a disabled individual.
A few recent cases demonstrate just how complex this issue can be. Consider what your response would be, if you were the employer, in the following cases:
These cases bring out the need for employers and workers to openly communicate. Both sides must have an understanding of the process for requesting and granting reasonable accommodation. And, of course, all parties should be reasonable as well as thorough in understanding the issue.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlines the process defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as follows:
The reason for acceptance denial must be documented with HHS. In addition, annual reports must be filed. Keep in mind that:
When you hire people with disabilities, do make an effort to consider the accessibility of your work areas, the tools and technologies used, training methods, information dissemination processes. In short, pay attention to each and every aspect of the workplace which could potentially make it difficult for the disabled person(s) to work effectively. Consider disability-friendly rest rooms, drinking fountains, staircases/elevators/escalators, parking allotment and transportation systems. Ensure that the disabled worker has access to an emergency exit. More importantly, make sure that no part of the office space poses a hazard to the disabled worker.
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