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The Beat Goes On: Healthcare Debate Reignites Complexities of ADA Accommodation Compliance

It’s been over a quarter-century since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, and more than eight years have passed since the act was amended to give employers and business owners greater clarity and guidance into the civil rights protections the ADA set in place. Now, the same way the ongoing debate over healthcare reform has reached into nearly every corner of American life, it’s similarly raised concerns around the ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

Consider these recent headlines:

As Congress debates plans that could have sweeping implications for people with disabilities and what that could mean in the workplace, employers must still meet the already complex ADA accommodation regulations. Although the 2008 amendments provided comprehensive guidance for employers, compliance remains a huge challenge. The risks of noncompliance can be costly. And it looks like things aren’t going to get easier to manage anytime soon.

That said, if you’re an employer that must comply with the ADA and ADAAA, you can take seven steps to ensure that you efficiently and accurately track, manage, and document your accommodation process to mitigate compliance risk and eliminate employee grievances.

  1. Use an interactive process. Simply put, an interactive process means that employers and employees who request accommodations because of a disability work together. But simple doesn’t always mean easy, uncomplicated, or without potential risks. The right process solution makes a huge difference.

  2. Have a way to safely validate accommodation claims. Legal experts and courts routinely disagree on what defines a “reasonable” ADA/ADAAA request or accommodation. But you need a process to manage those requests and accommodations to ensure compliance, maintain productivity, and prevent employee disengagement.

  3. Have a smooth return-to-work process. If a returning employee is disabled or has a record of a disability, they may need additional accommodations after returning to work. Required under the ADA, these accommodations can include time off for medical appointments or therapy sessions, special equipment, or workplace modifications.

  4. Stay up to date with EEOC enforcement guidance. The EEOC has issued guidance on ADA topics ranging from the “unlawful disparate treatment” of workers with caregiving responsibilities to the definition of psychiatric disabilities under the act. You need a system that will automatically update your accommodations process.

  5. Perform efficient and complete compliance self-audits. You need to regularly review your compliance strategies and tactics. A compliance self-audit that reviews all of your ADA-related policies and practices requires the ability to monitor all of the actions related to any accommodation request.

  6. Have a process for complying with local and state laws or multiple leave accommodations. An employee may qualify for multiple leaves and accommodations. The FMLA and ADA/ADAAA often overlap. The results can be an administration quagmire for HR and cause significant disruptions for managers and employees. You need a way to ensure that your plans comply with all applicable laws.

  7. Be prepared to accept full responsibility. Regardless of who manages your employees’ requests for ADA/ADAAA accommodations or their claims under FMLA, if the IRS determines any penalties or fees are due, you’ll be the one it holds responsible. You need to be able to absolutely trust any outside solution or vendor you use to manage your process and plan.

To better understand why these steps are so important, and to get a clearer picture of how to act on them in your organization, download our e-book “Seven Steps to Safe Swimming in the Dangerous Waters of ADA Accommodation Compliance.”

ADAInteract® from Optis makes it easy to manage accommodation requests and the ADAAA interactive process. ADAInteract increases efficiency in the disability accommodations process by providing a centralized system for managing every accommodation request — and the entire ADAAA interactive process. With three editions of ADAInteract, Optis makes it possible for your company to get exactly what you need to manage every piece of the complicated ADA process and be sure you’re in compliance.

Start your free 30-day trial today!