Are you a disabled employee? Many disabled employees would say no because they think “disabled” has negative connotations. As long as they can do their job, they do not consider themselves disabled and they do not want anyone else to see them as disabled. A disabled individual is anyone who has a limitation on a major life activity, including working. Some disabilities are temporary and some are permanent. Some disabilities are obvious and others are invisible. The truth is that disabled employees have rights and are protected from retaliation for exercising those rights.
Just because an employee has a disability does not mean they can’t perform the essential functions of their job.
In fact, an employee is perfectly qualified as long as he or she can perform the essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to the job or the work environment that enables a qualified person to perform the essential functions of the position. When an employee requests accommodation, he or she does not need to use any magic words. It can be as simple as turning in a doctor’s note with restrictions. The employer must engage in the interactive process with the employee to identify an accommodation that will allow the employee to continue working, if possible. What is the interactive process? It is a timely and good faith exchange of information between the employer and the employee.
Sometimes all it takes is a willingness to think “outside the box” to come up with a reasonable accommodation that will allow a valuable employee to continue working.
At times, more input from the employee’s medical provider can help clarify what an employee can and cannot do. Sometimes a scheduling modification is all it takes or an ergonomic keyboard or some other assistive device, like a cart on wheels to help carry things. In fact, the Department of Labor’s online Job Accommodation Network has an easy-to-use A to Z list of types of accommodations and can be accessed by type of limitation, work-related function or disability. The Job Accommodation Network (https://askjan.org/index.cfm) is one of many resources that are available to employees as well as employers to assist them with a meaningful and productive interactive process.
There are times when a leave of absence that allows the employee time to heal from an injury, illness or medical procedure can be a reasonable accommodation. If the disability is such that the employee cannot go back to their regular job, alternate jobs with the employer may need to be explored.
Contact us if you are having issues at your workplace.
If you believe you may be a disabled employee who is not being treated fairly by your employer, please reach out to our knowledgeable and compassionate lawyers at Jay S. Rothman and Associates for a free consultation.