Managers should never ignore an accommodation request. Whether or not you believe the request to be valid, contact your local HR Manager or Cornell’s Medical Leaves Administration office as soon as an employee tells you they have a disability or requests an accommodation.
2. Managers should always make detailed records about their observations and thoughts about an employee’s disability in order to determine an appropriate accommodation.
Medical information should never be kept in the same files as other employee personnel records. Do not include any speculations or suppositions about an employee’s disability in any employee or performance records.
3. If an employee has an obvious need for an accommodation, the manager can privately ask the employee if an accommodation is needed.
In cases where an accommodation need is very obvious or where the employee has already disclosed a disability, the manager can ask the employee if he needs an accommodation in a particular situation (e.g. a meeting or performing a new work task). If the employee has not disclosed a disability or the accommodation need is not obvious, simply ask the employee a few general questions about whether she will need any support in this situation—questions you would ask any employee regardless of whether you suspect she has a disability.
4. Managers are not required to eliminate essential job functions in order to provide a disability accommodation.
Essential functions are those tasks that justify the existence of the job. Managers are not required to eliminate essential job functions as an accommodation. But exchanging or eliminating marginal job functions can be an option for a disability accommodation.
5. An employee can be terminated if he still cannot perform the essential functions of his job after he is granted one accommodation.
Employers must make a good faith effort to find an effective accommodation. Generally, a good faith effort means more than one attempt at finding a disability accommodation. Contact your HR representative or Cornell’s Medical Leaves Administration office to discuss next steps if an accommodation is not effective.
6. The manager should inform all co-workers when an employee has an accommodation so that work is not interrupted.
Co-workers who are not impacted by the accommodation do not need to be told anything. Co-workers who are directly impacted by the accommodation should only be told about the changes to their job. If a co-worker asks about the reason for these changes, she can be told that the changes are an adjustment made due to another co-worker’s personal issue—an adjustment that the organization may extend to all employees when they are needed. Co-workers should not be told that the changes are related to an ADA accommodation as this is essentially telling co-workers that the employee has a disability. All employees should be made continually aware that accommodations are not a special favor, but are a right to any employee with a disability.
7. If the employee does not mention the ADA, the manager should assume they do not have a right to an accommodation.
Some accommodations require an adjustment period until the employee regains their prior productivity levels. Set and communicate reasonable productivity goals and check in to make sure the accommodation is effective in meeting these goals.
9. Veterans have rights to disability accommodations under several laws.
At Cornell, we hire and accommodate veterans not just because of the law, but because it’s good for our university. Veterans with disabilities do have a right to an accommodation under several laws. The ADA, the Uniformed Service Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA), and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). In 2014, VEVRAA was strengthened to make employers more accountable for recruiting and employing veterans with disabilities (and several other categories of veterans).
10. The average cost of a disability accommodation is about $2000.
Many employers believe disability accommodations cost more than they actually do. According to a study by the Job Accommodation Network, 51% of accommodations cost nothing. When accommodations did have a cost, the average cost is about $500 (Loy, 2014).