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Accommodating Disabilities in the Workplace: Legal Compliance and Best Practices

Millions of American workers suffer from some sort of disability. In legal terms, a disability is defined as any “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Nevada state law require most employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for an employee with a disability who requests one.

What an employee considers “reasonable,” however, is often not what the employer considers reasonable. Whether an accommodation is reasonable for ADA purposes will depend on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding an employee and their disability. If an employee believes an employer has acted unreasonably, they can seek legal advice from a qualified Las Vegas employment attorney and potentially take legal action against the employer for non-compliance with the ADA.

Your ADA Rights During the Job Interview Process

The ADA protects “qualified employees” with disabilities. It also protects qualified job applicants. In this context, “qualified” means that the employee or job applicant possesses the necessary skill, experience, and education to perform the essential functions of a given job even without any accommodation for their disability.

The ADA forbids employers from asking any disability-related questions, or requesting any disability-related medical examinations, during an initial interview process. In simple terms, a prospective employer cannot ask you if you have a disability. Nor are you required to disclose any disability you have when filling out a job application. If the prospective employer extends a valid job offer, however, they are allowed to ask disability-related questions or require a medical examination, provided such requirements apply to all entering employees in the same job category.

This leads to an obvious question: Can the employer rescind the job offer if the applicant discloses a disability? The answer is, “It depends.” Discrimination in hiring based on a disability is illegal. However, the employer can try to argue the offer was rescinded for other, non-discriminatory reasons, such as that the medical examination revealed the applicant would not be able to perform the essential duties of the job.

Handling Requests for Reasonable Accommodations

Nevada employers should develop and enforce a policy for handling requests for reasonable accommodation, both from current employees as well as job applicants. The ADA does not mandate such policies. But it is considered a best practice.

At the same time, an employer should not implement a “blanket” policy defining what is–or is not–considered a reasonable accommodation. Indeed, such a blanket policy would likely violate the ADA. The whole point of the reasonable accommodation requirement is to ensure that the employer addresses such requests on an individual basis.

So what should an employer’s policy include? Here are a few examples:

  • Recognizing when a request is made. The ADA does not require an employee to use the exact words “reasonable accommodation” to initiate a request. It may be something as simple as an employee telling their supervisor they are having difficulty completing their work due to a medical issue. Employers therefore need to be proactive in training supervisors to recognize when an employee is making a potential request for a disability accommodation.
  • Deciding who will handle a request. Many employers direct disability accommodation requests to their human resources department. Regardless, the employer should identify who will handle such requests. Managers must then be trained to direct any of their employees who initiate a request to speak to that person or department.
  • Asking about accommodations. If the employer already knows that an employee has a disability, they can ask if the employee needs reasonable accommodation if there is a reasonable belief it might be necessary.
  • Engaging in an informal process. Once an employer receives a request for a reasonable accommodation, both sides should meet and discuss the request. The employer is allowed to ask questions about the nature of the employee’s disability and their functional limitations. Ideally, everyone can reach an informal agreement on what steps to take next.
  • Identifying a reasonable accommodation. If there is more than one accommodation option, the employee can state a preference, which should be given first consideration. However, the employer is allowed to make the final decision. Keep in mind that an accommodation is not considered “reasonable” under the ADA if it removes an essential job function, creates a new job, or requires the employer to provide personal need items to the employee.

Contact Ace Law Group Today

Unfortunately, there are situations where an employer and employee cannot agree on a reasonable accommodation. When that happens, the employee may initiate legal action and potentially seek a settlement or civil judgment against the employer for violating the ADA. The team at Ace Law Group can review your case and advise you of your rights. Call us today at 702-333-4223 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.