October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
Employees with disabilities add great value to their organizations. A 2018 study in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation found that employers who hired people with disabilities often experienced improvements in profitability, an increase in customer loyalty and satisfaction, a more inclusive work culture, and greater ability awareness.
In addition to being good for business, employers are required by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to meet certain provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Compliance means more than just making sure buildings are wheelchair accessible. Understanding and adhering to ADA standards is important because the EEOC files discrimination lawsuits against businesses for alleged violations of the ADA.
To avoid any unintended errors, businesses should make concerted efforts to evaluate their policies towards individuals with disabilities, and make sure that their practices comply with the ADA. Below are three areas companies should prioritize.
Make no assumptions
One of the faults an employer can make is to assume that a person does not have a disability just because they do not observe one. Not all disabilities that may impact an employee’s ability to perform work functions are visually apparent. To make things more clear and equitable, try to standardize procedures with tools such as an accommodation request form and an accommodation process checklist. These resources will help to ensure compliance with ADA standards.
Make sure job descriptions are accurate
One of the most important parts of a job that an employer should ensure is accurate is the description of the position itself. A job description should be as specific as possible about expectations as they relate to attendance, work functions, and experience.
If a job cannot be performed remotely, you should make sure that is noted. Whether it is for a job posting or an employee manual, always make sure that the description of the position covers all of the required qualifications.
Create a flexible policy
In May 2016, the EEOC issued the Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which addresses the rights of employees with disabilities to seek leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
In the document, the EEOC stated that, “an employer must consider providing unpaid leave to an employee with a disability as a reasonable accommodation if the employee requires it, and so long as it does not create an undue hardship for the employer.”
In some cases, employers may need to modify specific attendance policies to ensure ADA compliance.
Ways to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Employers should use the month of October as an opportunity to make sure they are doing all they can to support their employees and be compliant with the ADA. Small steps taken now can ultimately reduce risk and create a healthier, more inclusive workplace culture.
Here are some suggested activities from the Office of Disability Employment Policy:
- Review your company’s policies
- Establish a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG)
- Create a display about your company’s commitment to a disability-inclusive workforce
- Train supervisors to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace
- Educate employees through disability training or informal educational events
- Participate in a Disability Mentoring Day that promotes career development for youth with disabilities
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