Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exists to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment. As simple as that may seem, employers have their work cut out for them in meeting the law's standards. That's what makes consistency, communication and compliance so important, Jennifer Lyons, marketing manager at Guardian Life Insurance, said during a Disability Management Employer Coalition webinar.
"If one of these are missing, the employer is putting themselves at risk," she said. "The focus should be on policies and procedures that are consistent and clearly communicated."
Consistency in policies
When it comes to accommodation policies, the best are written long before a situation requires them, Cammie McAda, vocational rehabilitation services leader at Guardian, said. "A policy is a guideline that explains the expected behavior for the company and the employee," she said. "Don't write it when the situation arises — be one step ahead of the game. Anticipate that need." When employers hurry to write a policy after a situation has necessitated it, they often craft the rule around the situation unknowingly.
Policies should define the process through which an organization approaches accommodations, which means it sets necessary boundaries, lays out the forms used, defines deadlines and sets expectations for followup, McAda said. And to ensure the success of a policy, of course, consistency is absolutely necessary; "Consistency in our policy allows for uniformity across the organization," she said.
This uniformity is one created through a process of repetition, McAda said. When a process can repeat itself for the unique situations arising day by day, it's effective. "Inconsistency can lead to misinterpretation, uncertainty and, bottom line, to discrimination," she said. "We want to make sure that we make a process broad enough that gives everyone the opportunity to be treated equally and handle that process with a consistent format."
Clarity in communication
Even the most masterfully crafted policy will fail unless its paired with good communication. "Clear and concise communication is key to the best outcomes," McAda said. "Concise doesn't always mean brief, but clear and to the point." Employees who know what's going to happen next will respond well, she added.
The duty of communication belongs to the employer, according to Valerie Dorsey, professional resources team leader. "The employer is responsible for the communication," she said, adding that an employer can be broadly defined — "anyone in the position of authority." Once communication begins, employers must ensure all communication coincides with company policies. And though the employer-employee dialogue may be initiated verbally and without use of ADA-specific language, employers may want to carry out the rest of the communication in writing or take notes of in-person conversations for documentation purposes, Dorsey said.
Employers can consider the lifecycle of an accommodation to assess the clarity and consistency of communication, McAda said. Before an accommodation request surfaces, it's essential that a policy exists and that employees have access to that policy. Employers also may want to make this information available in posters, employee handbooks or notices.
Once an employee has requested an accommodation or made a need known, the interactive process begins. "This is where documentation becomes key," McAda said. "Make sure you don't rely on verbal communication. Document everything, even if you think it's simple. The interactive process doesn't have to be a two-hour formal meeting, but you want to make sure you cover yourself with documentation."
After an employer has put an accommodation into action, it will need to ensure its understanding of the solution matches the employee's understanding, McAda added. This is particularly important for employees taking leave as an accommodation — and they'll need return-to-work instructions, too. And, after the implementation of an accommodation, the employer must prioritize follow up to make sure the accommodation works, she said.
Defense of ADA website claims calls for a very practical approach, undergirded by an in-depth knowledge of defenses that are likely to prevail and those that are no longer viable. This article discusses the current state of the law and focus on practical strategies for resolving ADA website claims.
A federal agency has filed a lawsuit against a Saranac egg producer, alleging it created a hostile environment for a disabled employee and retaliated against her for complaining.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on March 1 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids against Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Saranac.
The commission alleges Herbruck’s violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by harassing an employee “because of her disability, retaliating against her because she complained of harassment, and constructively discharging her because of her disability and opposition to harassment,” according to the lawsuit.
Melinda Crooke was employed as a line worker at the Saranac facility from October 2014 to August 2015, according to the complaint.
Crooke has impairments, attention-deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome, and the lawsuit claims Herbruck’s “harassed her because of those impairments, retaliated against her for complaining about the harassment, and constructively discharged her because of her impairments and her opposition to workplace harassment.”
The lawsuit claims Crooke’s supervisor and some of her co-workers began to mock her for ADD/ADHD and Tourette’s symptoms after her supervisor became aware of them. It also alleges that on a weekly basis, Crooke was called “Mindy Tourette’s,” “Gabby,” “Motormouth” and “Wandering Wanda” by those same people.
Before Dot Nary received her Ph.D. and began working at the University of Kansas as an assistant research professor at the Research and Training Center on Independent Living, she had been discriminated against while entering the workforce because she uses a wheelchair. Nary is currently researching ways to expand independent living for disabled people, and teaches others about disability in order to lessen the stigma.
In the 21st century, navigating a school's website is an essential part of education. But a new study from BYU and Utah State University says certain web issues are alienating the U.S. disabled community.
The study found that more than 95 percent of U.S. K-12 school websites had errors that made the page difficult for a person with a disability to use.
Examples of these issues listed in the study anecdotally include no video transcript or caption options for a hard of hearing student, or text size formatting options for a visually impaired student or parent.
The research comes from WebAIM, a web accessibility consultancy based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.
Before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities faced discrimination and were seen as “limited.” But in the last couple of decades, they too are being included and hired. Since 2006, AtWork! has served over 400 new people with disabilities. They’ve secured 327 successful job placements in more than 216 businesses including Costco, Boeing, Microsoft, Goodwill, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, and many more.