Interactive Process Key to Accommodating Employee with Disability

We have a new hire who, after being hired, disclosed a physical disability. She indicated that we need to accommodate her, and I have since read a little about how to handle this, but I’m not sure how to proceed.

Both state and federal laws protect individuals with disabilities. Employers are required to make a reasonable accommodation when an employee discloses that they have a disability, and not all disabilities are obvious.

Interactive Process

A key part of the reasonable accommodation is the “interactive process.” This process requires both parties, employer and employee, to sit down and discuss ways to adjust the job duties to allow the disabled individual to do their job.

Interactive means the employee is equally responsible for coming up with ideas and solutions to enable them to perform the job duties. This conversation enables the employer to gather information and work with the employee to explore accommodations and alternative ways for the individual to perform the job.

The disabled employee typically has unique knowledge of their limitations, and can provide ideas. In addition, the employee’s doctor often can provide helpful input.

CalChamber members can use the Reasonable Accommodation and Interactive Process Checklist and Reasonable Accommodation Request. This form (also available in Spanish) can guide the employer through collecting the information needed for the reasonable accommodation, including the medical information.

It is critical to keep the medical information private, and it should be kept in the employee’s medical file, not the personnel file.

Good Records

Key to the accommodation process is having good records, and taking notes of any conversations and ideas proposed by both sides. There are times, however, that regardless of any efforts, there will be no way to accommodate the disabled employee. This is why the records need to reflect the efforts made by the employer as a defense against any claim of disability discrimination.

Dana Leisinger, HR Adviser, CalChamber

CalChamber members can read more about Reasonable Accommodation of Disabilities in the HR Library. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.

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