While all HR leaders are aware of the American Disabilities Act and the importance of compliance, understanding how to stay compliant is often challenging. The penalties for getting it wrong can be high - with fines of up to $150,000 from the Department of Justice for employers who are in violation of ADA standards.
Free Download: HR’s Guide to the ADA
But avoiding penalties and fines aren’t the only reasons employers should remain in ADA compliance. After all, the ADA was designed to be more inclusive and to ensure that employers are creating opportunities for people with disabilities to participate. Building inclusion benefits entire communities - including employees and customers alike. Additionally, companies that demonstrate social responsibility are much more attractive to potential candidates and customers. This can lead to stronger employee retention, improved customer retention, enhanced word-of-mouth advertising, and more - all while contributing to a positive shift in employment standards.
But back to the “how” - any form of compliance can be tricky, especially ones where the stakes are so high for your employees, making it all the more critical to get right. This article will share five general best practices to maintain ADA compliance. Check out HR's Guide to Compliance to learn about more compliance issues.
1. Train Your Managers and Supervisors
While the ADA is probably second-nature to an HR leader, it’s not necessarily top of mind for managers and supervisors. This is risky - because they’re much more likely to be a frequent touchpoint for employees. If they don’t have a thorough understanding of the act, what it requires and how to lead with that in mind, they’re at risk of making a terrible misstep that could lead to the organization running afoul of standards. Invest in training for everyone, and ensure that it’s refreshed periodically.
2. Write Handbooks and Policies That are Clear and Easy to Understand
The handbook should clearly state that employees are encouraged to request reasonable accommodations if they aren’t able to do essential parts of their job, and be firm that there will be no retaliation for employees who request accommodations. This is critical for demonstrating that employees are aware of their right to request accommodations and have the steps for how to request them.
3. Make Sure Your Job Descriptions are Accurate
Sometimes, job descriptions are written to incorporate every possible task that one might encounter in the role, without regard to frequency. This can be a misstep. As part of an inclusive hiring process, job descriptions should describe or reflect what an employee will do on a day-to-day basis. This is essential for two reasons. To start, candidates with disabilities might self-select themselves out of a process if the description notes that heavy lifting is required. But if heavy lifting isn’t actually a part of the daily role, this can be misleading or unnecessarily exclusive. Further, if a medical professional needs to assess what accommodations an employee might need to perform the role, they need to be working with the most accurate and up-to-date information. For those two reasons, employers should aim to keep their job descriptions up-to-date and periodically refreshed.
Check out this article for best practices when onboarding people with disabilities.
4. Don’t Request Unnecessary Medical Documentation
Disabilities come in many forms, including invisible and visible. There can often be significant barriers to an employee gaining the exact documentation needed - particularly if they lack access to healthcare, transportation, discretionary time for appointments or are in the process of being evaluated but are not yet diagnosed. Whatever the case may be, experts recommend only requesting documentation when necessary. If a need is apparent or obvious, then documentation is an additional hoop that makes getting accommodations all the more difficult for employees. Ultimately, employers are advised to use good judgment. While there may be times when documentation is critical, there may also be times when a simple conversation will suffice in order to move to the next step.
5. Be Flexible
Remaining overly rigid with a process can inadvertently be exclusive to others in damaging ways. Often, discrimination happens before a candidate even becomes an employee. For example, imagine a candidate who is perfectly capable of doing the job, but can’t participate in the initial screening because the application is only available online and the website isn’t ADA accessible. Having a standard set of procedures is fine, but be flexible when it makes sense to - which might include something like finding an alternative to a phone interview for a deaf candidate, for example.
Outside of administration, a lot of ADA compliance can be met by simply thinking with inclusion in mind. By just asking themselves “How can I make sure that this is accessible and available to everyone?” Most HR leaders (and managers) can make significant strides in building environments that are welcoming to all. And for the administration side, there are tools available to help manage compliance, documentation, and key dates. Take a tour to learn how GoCo can help you stay compliant with the ADA.
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