In general, the ADA does not allow an employer to ask any questions about disability or to conduct any medical examinations until after the employer makes a conditional job offer to the applicant. Although employers may not ask disability-related questions or require medical examinations at the pre-offer stage, they may do a wide variety of things to evaluate whether an applicant is qualified for the job, including the following:
The ADA does, however, provide an exception to the general rule prohibiting disability-related questions in the interview process. Under the ADA , an employer may invite applicants to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with disabilities for affirmative action purposes.
Return to Work (RTW) programs are designed to return an injured, disabled, or temporarily impaired worker to the workplace as soon as medically feasible. Such programs can help businesses boost employee morale, save organizational resources, reduce workers compensation costs and retain top talent.
The anticipated result of an RTW program is the progressive return of the injured or recuperating employee to full duty. RTW programs are historically associated with returning employees from occupational injuries, but many companies are now integrating RTW programs for non-occupational injuries and health issues to their overall disability management strategy.
Many individuals with disabilities who wish to return to work after a period of leave may need reasonable accommodations in order to do their jobs. As a result, an RTW program will generally include temporary or permanent accommodations such as modified schedules, modified job duties, modified methods for completing job duties, or reassignment to an alternate position.
Increasingly, businesses are implementing workplace flexibility programs in an effort to remain competitive. Flexible work arrangements include a wide variety of solutions including flexible start and end times, compressed work weeks, shift swaps, and telework programs.
On average, how much will it cost to provide a reasonable accommodation?
Generally, employers have found that it may cost little to nothing to accommodate most employees with a disability. Studies by the Job Accommodation Network have found:
There are also a number of tax benefits available to help employers offset the costs related to accommodations. Employers who hire Veterans with disabilities might be entitled to additional tax credits, salary subsidies, and salary reimbursement.
Adjusting or modifying tests and training materials – such as providing materials in alternate formats.
Allowing the use of a job coach – permitting a job coach paid by a public or private social service agency to accompany an employee at a job site in order to assist the employee in learning and accurately carrying out job duties.
Modifying or acquiring equipment or devices – such as railing the height of a desk to accommodate an employee who uses a wheelchair, purchasing amplified stethoscopes for use by nurses and physicians with hearing impairments, or providing assistive technology, such as computer screen readers, for employees with vision impairments.
Modifying policies or workplace rules – such as allowing an employee with diabetes to eat at her desk or allowing a retail store cashier with a back impairment to use a stool.
Modifying work schedules – such as adjusting arrival or departure times, providing periodic breaks, or altering the times when certain job tasks are performed.
Providing qualified readers or interpreters – such as a reader to read written materials to an employee with a vision impairment or a sign language interpreter for a person who is deaf.
Job restructuring – making changes to when and/or how a task is performed, or shifting responsibility to other employees for minor tasks that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability.
Leave – allowing an employee to use accrued paid leave, and providing additional unpaid leave once an employee has exhausted all available leave, for disability realted reasons such as receiving or recovering from treatment or when a condition “flares up.”
Reassignment to a vacant position – moving a current employee to an existing vacant position for which he or she is qualified when the employee can no longer perform his or her current job because of disability.
Telework – allowing an employee to work from home or a remote location.
A person has a disability if:
He or she has a physical or mental condition or impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, learning, or a major bodily functions, such as functions of the immune system, cardiovascular system, or normal cell growth); or
He or she has a history of a physical or mental condition or impairment (such as cancer that is in remission); or
He or she is believed to have a physical or mental condition or impairment that is not minor and transitory.
An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation if it will enable an applicant or employee to enjoy equal employment opportunities and it does not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business. An accommodation imposes an undue hardship if it requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer’s size, financial resources (including the resources of the parent company), and the nature and structure of its operation. An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation. Employees are expected to perform the essential functions of the job, with reasonable accommodations if needed.