An Essential yet Burdensome Law
If you’re an HR manager or a business owner you have a lot to think about when it comes to the welfare of your employees. In addition to fair and ethical treatment, you must also strictly adhere to government regulations. The American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990 is one such regulation.
The Rundown on ADA
Ensuring that people with disabilities have dignified, comfortable access to public services is extremely important in societies where equality is valued. In the past, some business ignored providing accessibility within their establishments citing the unnecessary costs and no legal requirement to do so. In response to this, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) into law on July 26th, 1990 by George H. W. Bush.
Like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that came before it, the ADA prohibits the conscious discrimination against anyone with a federally recognized disability. The law was amended in 2009 to cover a wide-range of disabilities.
For business owners, this means their establishments must meet a full list of handicap accessibility requirements. In addition, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with pre-existing disabilities and they cannot deny employment based on disability.
It might be tempting to try and ignore ADA compliance especially when it applies to elements such as signage or if employing a disabled person could disrupt businesses operations. However, the financial repercussions for ignoring compliance can be severe especially for larger companies with multiple locations which make them targets for class action lawsuits.
Last year, Taco Bell paid a $5.4 million class-action lawsuit settlement to a group of disabled customers because their California locations were not adequately ADA compliant. Under the terms, Taco Bell was required to make their 200+ in the state complaint as well as provide ongoing training for the associates to make sure they remain compliant.
Without an established system of implementing and preserving your companies ADA compliance there’s a chance that you might get hit with a lawsuit and subsequent lawsuits could follow for each specific violation. Fortunately, there are ways to help safeguard against internal and external ADA compliance lawsuits.
ADA Compliance Contractors
If you’re a business owner or an HR manager, you might be concerned that your building is not entirely ADA compliant. In fact, many lawsuits are placed against companies that are genuinely unaware that their establishment is in violation. For this reason, you might consider hiring the services of a qualified ADA compliance contractor.
An ADA compliance contractor not only assess your publicly accessible areas but also areas for your employees. They determine where you are in violation as well as where you can improve. Most compliance contractors also provide construction services to fix these issues while the ones that don’t can direct you to the appropriate construction contractors.
Disability Management Programs
Within a business, Disability Management Programs (DMPs) help you avoid ADA management nightmares by supplying the materials and training to ensure that compliance is met within the administrative environment.
It’s important to note that the definition of disability, as defined by the ADA, does not have to be a condition a person is born with nor does it have to be permanent. For this reason, DMPs can also have a heavy focus on preventative measures that help able-bodied employees to remain able-bodied.
Safety programs that focus on avoiding workplace injuries due to slips, falls, or heavy lifting can be one component of these preventative measures. Another might be wellness programs that encourage regular doctor checkups, healthy eating, and exercise. A savvy HR manager might also collect external resources from programs and events related to the overall health of their employees.
How the ADA Effects HR Management
An HR manager, in many cases, is the first point of contact within a company for assessing ADA compliance. This is no small responsibility. If you are an HR manager, there are many aspects of the law of which you must be aware.
When considering an employment candidate who is disabled, you must be cautious that if choosing not to hire the person your reason for doing so clearly delineates why based on qualifications as opposed to their disability.
If the position has a physical or mental requirement that the candidate’s disability prevents them from meeting, it would be wise to document the reasons in the event of a future ADA audit. You should also explain why it would have been impossible to provide a reasonable accommodation for the candidate if hired.
After hiring an employee with a disability there are even more details to consider such as:
• Modifying and acquiring equipment needed for the employees work environment
• Restructuring the job itself
• Adjusting the employees work schedule
• Reassignment to a vacant position if the requirements of the job change
• Ensuring that examinations, training materials or policies are accessible for the employee
• Providing readers and interpreters for blind and deaf employees
It’s important to not see these accommodations as costly since many are tax-deductible expenses.
ADA-Related Leave of Absences
One important accommodation HR managers must be aware of is a leave of absence related specifically to an employee’s disability. An ADA leave of absence, like an FMLA leave, allows an employee to take time off from work without the fear of losing their job. The difference between the two types of leaves is that after the 12 weeks allowed under FMLA an employer can choose to allow more time or terminate if the leave is putting a strain on business. ADA leaves are not as straight forward. Different employers have different rules for how much ADA-related leave time an employee can take. Often, these rules don’t hold up in court.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is very active (and successful) litigating against companies that have inflexible leave of absence policies which negatively affect disabled employees.
Let LeaveSource Help!
The last thing an HR Manager wants to discover is that they incorrectly tracked an ADA leave causing them to deny the leave or wrongfully terminate an employee as a result. The resulting lawsuit or potential class action lawsuit could be costly. LeaveSource software conveniently tracks and simplifies the process of managing ADA leaves. Protect your company from making an expensive ADA leave of absence mistake – use LeaveSource!