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How to Handle ADA Claims

Posted by Jessica Miller-Merrell

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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:

  • modifying work schedules or how employees are supervised
  • changing how or when job duties should be performed
  • granting a temporary leave or time off
  • changing specific policies at the office
  • moving workers to different offices, or modifying building structures
  • adjusting the non-core duties required for the job
  • allowing workers additional telecommuting opportunities
  • providing assistive technology and/or adaptive furniture
  • making sure accessible parking is available
  • reassigning the individual to a different job

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.

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About Jessica Miller-Merrell

Author

Jessica is listed as the 2nd most influential recruiter online and as the 8th most powerful woman on Twitter. She is the author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, a how-to business guide for Twitter users. She also writes for a number of leading publications, including Fortune, HR Magazine, SmartBrief, and HR Executive Magazine.

2 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Maria Stevenson March, 23, 2015

    When dealing with ADA claims, one must keep calm and try to learn all the possible procedures and ways out. The main thing here is to use the same approach as you do when dealing with other legal issues.

  • Clara Lewis March, 25, 2015

    On the way to work this morning, I noticed two disabled young women helping each other to get onto a bus. Watching them made me think of things they have to overcome every day. Maybe they are devoted employees, showing good progress but needing more time and effort to get to work. They cannot use stairs when an elevator is busy. I think, in the modern world, people with disabilities shouldn’t meet any difficulties with their job. Companies should do everything possible to reduce problems with accommodations.

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Guest March, 25, 2015