You are not alone in the process of finding an accommodation for an employee with a disability. A first step is to call your local HR Manager or Cornell’s Medical Leaves Administration at 607.255.1177 or visit Disability Accommodations.
The Job Accommodation Network provides free and anonymous consulting around disability accommodations and a website that covers a wide variety of issues and types of accommodations. Consider using SOAR (Searchable Online Accommodation Resource) to learn about possible accommodations for different types of disabilities. Also, find out about tax and financial incentives available for disability accommodations. Call 800-526-7234 or visit the website at www.jan.wvu.edu.
The most effective accommodations aren’t always the most expensive or elaborate. Many effective accommodations cost little or nothing. Start by asking the employee if they have any ideas about what might work for them. Remember, a key part of finding an accommodation is to think creatively. Consider these examples:
Innovations in technology have completely changed how individuals with and without disabilities function at work and have opened many new doors for accommodations. Called “assistive technology,” these innovations for individuals with disabilities are rapidly becoming more powerful, more user-friendly and less costly. Consider the following examples:
Not all accommodations are equal. Some accommodations, though legal, are less than ideal. Always begin by considering those accommodations which, as much as possible, keep the employee engaged in the essential functions of their job. Accommodations such as extended leave or job reassignment are more likely to disrupt productivity and engagement. Consider these accommodation as options of last resort.
Employers can deny accommodations that cause undue hardship—that cause significant difficulty or expense. Undue hardship is determined on a case by case basis, considering the overall resources of the organization, the cost of the accommodation, and the extent to which the accommodation disrupts work operations. If an employee’s disability is such that ANY accommodation causes undue hardship, the employee is no longer qualified for the job and may be re-assigned or terminated. As a manager, do not deny an employee’s accommodation without first consulting Cornell’s Medical Leaves Administration office for next steps.
Though less than ideal, sometimes work leave is the only accommodation option. But how much leave must be given? Under the ADA, the employer must provide the same paid leave it would provide similarly-situated employees for leave related to a disability. When paid leave is exhausted, the employer might need to provide unpaid leave if no other accommodation option exists. Under the ADA, there is no set limit about how much leave must be granted or when leave constitutes undue hardship for the employer. This is determined on a case by case basis. Other laws, however, such as the Family & Medical Leave Act, cover leave for shorter-term conditions and may have set limits for how much leave can be taken. When an employee takes leave as a disability accommodation, her job must be kept open for them until they return to work.
At Cornell, we value the skills, discipline and teamwork veteran employees bring to our workplace and are fully committed to providing accommodations to veteran employees who need them. As a manager, strive to create a climate of trust, respect and openness so that veterans are willing to come forward with a disability, both for our reporting purposes and to ensure these veterans get the accommodations they need.
Two common types of disabilities among returning veterans are post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) (Tanielan & Jaycox, 2008). These two disabilities are sometimes called the “signature disabilities” of Gulf War Era II Veterans. Veterans with these two types of disabilities have a right to an accommodation if one is needed. What do these accommodations look like? Here are some points to keep in mind:
Norman, S., Elbogen, E. & Schnurr, P. (2014). Research Findings on PTSD and Violence. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Accessed at http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/co-occurring/research_on_ptsd_and_vi....
Tanielan T, Jaycox, L, (Eds.) (2008). Invisible wounds of war: Psychological and cognitive injuries, their consequences, and services to assist recovery. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Center for Military Health Policy. Accessed at http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720.html.