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Basic, Better, Best: Practical Ways to Improve Your ADAAA Documentation

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans in the workforce is disabled.1 Our recent survey with DMEC shows that 40% of employers receive more than 100 requests for accommodations each year.2

And to be compliant with the ADAAA, that means you need to document those accommodation requests and the interactions you have with your employees. The conversations and interactions you have with employees constitute the ADAAA interactive process and ensure compliance.*

Interactive Process Overview

The ADAAA interactive process is the good faith exploration of possible accommodations between employers and individual employees. This collaborative discussion should include the following people:

  • The employee
  • The employee’s manager or supervisor
  • An HR business partner

The goal of the interactive process is to identify an accommodation that allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The interactive process can include meetings, emails, conversations, forms and notes, which employers should carefully document for compliance and to ensure all steps of the process are followed for each employee. The steps of the interactive process are as follows:

Six-step ADAAA documentation

Documentation Overview: Basic, Better, Best Practices

Employers don't always receive accommodation requests in writing, so creating documentation from the very beginning of the request until the case is closed is one of the best methods of showing ADAAA compliance. Remember, if there’s no documentation, it’s like it never happened. Consistent documentation is vital to ensuring no step is overlooked and that all employees have the same experience regardless of their role, medical condition or accommodation request.

Documentation should always be clear and accurate. The more details the better. Not only does documentation drive action to achieve reasonable accommodations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may look for evidence that the employer is working with the employee to do so.

Whether you’re getting started or want ideas on how to improve your current practice, here are the basic, better and best approaches to ADAAA documentation.

Basic ADAAA documentation practices

Do the bare minimum to be compliant:

  • Make the ADAAA process and policy accessible to all parties
  • Keep ADAAA files separate
  • Track the number of employees you have on active ADAAA accommodations — including physical restrictions or leave as an accommodation
  • Use a method of tracking to document every employee and every accommodation

Better ADAAA documentation practices

Includes everything in basic, plus:

  • Document each step of the interactive process
  • Use standardized forms in the ADAAA process
  • Include formal documentation of the ADAAA process

Best ADAAA documentation practices

Includes everything in better, plus:

  • Document and detailing each touch point with the employee, including phone calls, emails, in-person and any other form of communication
  • Note any additional resources you’ve used during the accommodation process, such as website resources, Job Accommodation Network consultants or legal counsel
  • Develop job descriptions which document essential job functions

More Considerations

The DMEC Pulse Survey revealed that only 18% of the surveyed businesses have an employee whose main job duty is to respond to ADA accommodation requests.2 Having a single person responsible for maintaining documentation is ideal, as too many people documenting a single case can create confusion, inconsistencies or inaccuracies.

Along with having a single person documenting each case, it’s also important for the responsible HR person — rather than the manager — to be the main contact with the employee.

Here are other things to consider when it comes to documenting the ADAAA interactive process and working with managers:

  • Managers and supervisors need to be trained on identifying and escalating accommodation requests.
  • Sometimes, accommodation requests aren’t obvious. It’s important to train HR representatives to identify if an employee’s difficulties are caused by a medical condition.
  • During the interactive review process, help the manager keep an open mind to accommodation possibilities. Managers are crucial in brainstorming accommodations that will help employees stay productive.
  • It’s the role of the HR representative to accurately and clearly document the entire process.
  • Use a tracking application. One-third of employers surveyed say they are using email to document, track and store ADAAA accommodation requests.2 This makes it difficult to maintain consistency.
  • It’s better to overdocument than not have enough documentation.

Defensible Documentation: Accurate and Complete

Good documentation is more than a good practice. In individual cases, it creates cohesiveness with all stakeholders in the process and ensures a consistent employee experience. In the larger picture, employers can use documentation to spot trends, identify possible lagging case closures, and better inform benefits and plan design considerations.


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