An employee tells you he’s disabled and can’t perform his job under current conditions. Here’s how to start the conversation about accommodations — without getting sued if things don’t work out.
The process won’t always be successful in keeping a disabled employee on the job. But the law requires employers to try.
Here are some keys for doing it right, from the employment law firm Jackson Lewis:
- Don’t just spell out one accommodation as a take-it-or-leave-it offer. It’s possible there’s only one reasonable solution, but all alternatives should be considered and discussed before the decision is made.
- Ask for the employee’s preference. The law says employees and employers have to have an interactive conversation. That doesn’t mean the employee will get what he or she wants, but the company at least needs to explain why the preferred accommodation is unreasonable.
- Document everything. If no reasonable accommodation is found, a written record of everything that was discussed with the employee will be necessary to prove the company did everything it could and met its legal obligations.
- Don’t forget the “last resort” accommodation — transferring the employee to an empty position that he or she can handle. But remember, that’s only to be considered after all other possibilities are exhausted.