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ADA Challenges Faced by Employees with Disabilities Amid the Return to In-Person Work?

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Question:

Thuy has many employees who have been working remotely but are now required to return to work. Thuy informed Theo, who has been working remotely for much of COVID, he will be required to return in two weeks. Theo has indicated he is no longer able to work at the office and needs to continue his telecommute work environment due to a medical condition. Thuy wants to know if she must allow Theo to work from home. She is concerned about violating the ADA, as Theo stated he has a disability and requires reasonable accommodation?

Answer:

Begin the interactive process by documenting the reasonable accommodation requested by Theo. The next stage is for Thuy to be informed that he will be required to provide medical documentation confirming his disability, how it impacts his ability to perform his job functions, and the requested accommodation, which is telecommuting.

The purpose of the Good Faith Interactive Meeting is to determine how Thuy’s disability impacts his ability to perform his essential job functions. During the meeting, we query the employee about how we can help them. They know their disability, they know their job, they may or may not have ideas on how they could perform their job with their disability, and we are there to help. Then we review with the employee each essential job function and have them clarify how their disability impacts their ability to perform that function in this case, how their disability impacts their ability to perform their job functions at the worksite. We use the medical disability evaluation from the medical provider to assist in identifying an accommodation that is both reasonable and not an undue hardship. 

Once it is confirmed the employee has a qualifying disability and the nature of the accommodation is identified, working from home in this case, HR will consult with the leadership team/supervisor to review the reasonableness of the requested accommodation. A determination needs to be documented regarding whether the accommodation, working from home, would cause an undue hardship or unreasonable. Thuy most likely believes that since he has been working from home during COVID, there should be no reason he can’t continue to work from home.

If you completed a Performance Evaluation for all telecommuters during COVID, you should have a clear idea of what functions of the job Thuy could and could not perform when working from home. And whether he was able to perform all his job functions at a meet’s expectation level. If you have not conducted a performance review, that will be an essential step during the accommodation process. What would be the undue hardship of them not working at the office if Thuy has been able to complete all of the essential functions of his job at a meet’s expectation level while working from home with COVID, has a disability, and working from home would allow him to complete all of the essential functions of his job at a meet’s expectation level? The Undue Hardship analysis is one of the most critical steps of the ADA Accommodation procedure. I hope this helps!

 

Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are calling workers who had been fulfilling their roles remotely back into the office. The push we see with regard to returning to in-person work creates disability quandaries related to privacy as well as to safety in the workplace. 

Not surprisingly, many employees are reluctant to return. Some generally worry about exposure to the virus (either for themselves or vulnerable family members). Others have more specific concerns, often in the form of underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has raised critical return to work questions, and they are often difficult to navigate. If you have challenges understating the ADA Accommodation process, including how to conduct and document the Good Faith Interactive meeting and Undue Hardship Analysis, we are here to help.

We offer on-demand access to an ADA Compliance course that will help you navigate through the current changes and difficulties that you are experiencing.

Learn more about our offerings today!