The Cornell Just-in-Time Toolkit for Managers

Tips, checklists, and resources to help managers lead a disability inclusive workforce.

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Having an effective accommodation discussion: It’s about the 3 P’s—Performance, Productivity & Preventing Turnover

A return on investment

  • Over half of all disability accommodations cost nothing.
  • Of those that do cost, the average cost is about $500.
  • Losing an employee costs far more than accommodating them.

Get the ball rolling 

  • To get the ball rolling, contact Cornell’s Medical Leaves Administration office at 607.255.1177 or visit Disability Accommodations.
  • Disability disclosures and accommodation requests should never be ignored.
  • Employees can use plain language to request an accommodation.
  • Focus on the job, not the disability.

The interactive process:  Talking to employees about an accommodation

  • Managers should avoid discussions about the medical details of the disability.
  • Focus on the essential functions of the job. Essential functions are those that justify the existence of the job.
  • Employers provide accommodations so that the employee can perform essential job functions.
  • What are the performance expectations while learning to use the accommodation? Will there be an adjustment period? 
  • Plan for brief check-ins to see how the accommodation is working.
  • Discuss who else needs to be told, what they will be told and why.

About medical documentation

  • Cornell’s Medical Leaves Administration can require and will collect medical documents to verify that there is a disability or to identify accommodations.
  • Managers should not collect medical information from employees.

Can I ask an employee whether she needs an accommodation?

  • If the employee has told you about a disability or if the accommodation need is very obvious (e.g. a person using a wheelchair needs to access a high shelf), you can privately ask him if he will need an accommodation for a particular work task or event (e.g. a work trip or a training session).
  • If the disability or accommodation need is not obvious, do not directly ask the employee. Rather, simply ask general questions (without mentioning disability) about whether he needs any additional supports or resources—a question you might ask any employee.

Who else can be told?

  • Do not tell all co-workers about an employee’s disability or accommodation.
  • Tell co-workers who need to do something differently because of an accommodation that an adjustment is being made due to a personal issue. Do not mention accommodation or the ADA.
  • All employees should be continually reminded that a disability accommodation is not a special favor, but is a right extended to all employees when a disability arises.

A good faith effort

  • Sometimes it will take more than one try at an accommodation to get it right. 
  • Generally, the employee cannot be deemed “unqualified” to do the job after just one attempt at accommodation.

Veterans in our workforce

  • Veterans with or without disabilities have a lot to offer Cornell’s workplace.
  • Veterans have a right to a disability accommodation under several laws.
  • We employ veterans with or without disabilities not just because of the law, but because it is good for our university.