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4 Tips on the 24th Anniversary of the ADA

This week’s post is brought to you by David Spring, Business Analyst.

This week marks the 24 year anniversary of when the ADA was signed into law, occurring on July 26, 1990. With over two decades past, ADA coordinators may be feeling tired and overwhelmed with surmounting responsibilities related to complying with the ADA and properly fulfilling reasonable accommodation requests. We understand, the journey sometimes feels more like a cyclone than a walk in the park. If during this 24th anniversary you’re looking for one single focus, then let it be this: focus on demonstrating good faith effort in all of your ADA-related activities. In order to demystify good faith effort, let’s consider a few possibilities; a sample of situations employers could begin to show good faith effort and also what activities should not be pursued.

Build a workplace that’s inclusive and supportive

It’s not always about reaching perfection in your activities, processes or forms; it’s more about building a workplace community and environment that is inclusive and supportive. If ADA coordinators and recruiters could do one thing, then do this: consider changing your hiring practices to open up the door broader to those candidates with disabilities. Stimulating and creating a more diverse applicant pool will demonstrate good faith effort. Talent may look differently than what you think because the picture of excellence does not look like a box. Not only will the OFCCP be happy, but your work teams will be enhanced as a result.

Emphasize supervisor training

The second emphasis is supervisor training. While employers are ultimately responsible for what accommodations are made, supervisors are at the front lines. Success can begin with this type of internal education. Begin simply; even changing mindset can be monumental towards demonstrating good faith effort. Shift thinking from, “how soon can we terminate” to “how soon can we accommodate.” Train supervisors to ask, “how can we help?” If you begin by accomplishing this type of training with supervisors, not only will governmental bodies be pleased, but your employees will most likely find the approach refreshing. Supervisors should also be trained to maintain good documentation on existing accommodations so that orientation for their potential replacements is made efficient and accommodation efforts aren’t negatively interrupted. Supervisors can play such an important role and in many cases are critical to a successful accommodation process. Don’t let their training be overlooked so that their involvement is seen as pivotal and not a roadblock to the process.

Know what resources are available

Oftentimes, it seems, the reason those responsible for coordinating reasonable accommodations feel like their job resembles a cyclone results from the belief that they need to become ADA experts. That outlook may very well be what requires the most significant change of all. It is understood that no employer wants a damaging lawsuit. Focus on beginning to learn what resources are available and not only begin to use those resources but document use of those resources. Yes, this is seen as good faith effort! Baby steps count because governmental bodies like the EEOC, DOL and OFCCP want to see evidence of taking steps towards moving in the right direction. Need some help identifying a few key resources to start? Here are a couple, but many exist.

Review your policies

Is it possible your ADA efforts might be misplaced? The aforementioned governmental bodies have repeatedly emphasized at such recent 2014 conferences as DMEC’s FMLA/ADAAA conference held this last spring in Washington DC and the ADA National Symposium held in Denver last month that good faith effort is not demonstrated by attempting to establish what was referred to as “cookie-cutter” approaches. Could this apply to you? Maybe, if either of the following two examples, a sample of many, describe your efforts. You may have “blanket statements” or policies, which aren’t evidence of good effort. “No eating at your desks,” is an example of this type of blanket statement. Certain disabilities will require a modification of this policy, and that’s a good thing because modifying a policy is a form of a reasonable accommodation. Maybe, your organization readies the termination packet as you see employees show no indication of returning to work near the exhaustion of FMLA. Not so fast, continued leave as a reasonable accommodation might be applicable. It all depends upon the individual situation.

So, start finding your way out of the cyclone by taking baby steps towards good faith effort. Be seen as a helper; cooperatively building a community of diverse workers. Make a paradigm shift from a possible focus on termination to a focus on opportunity and motivation. Identify your most helpful resources and positively redirect energies by focusing on what will work.