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Success Story: Creating a Supportive and Inclusive Workplace

Employees can become injured. It’s a common fact of life. Getting employees who have been injured back to work in a way that is safe and helps increase their productivity is what’s not always as common, but extremely important. It’s also critical that these employees aren’t labeled by any limitations they may have in their journey back to work.

Encourage, not Prevent, Participation

Recently, a production line employee was ready to return to work after having leg surgery. He required a cane to assist with his walking. However, citing safety reasons, his manager wouldn’t allow him to use his cane while on the production line, which restricted his ability to return to work.

This effectively excluded the employee from returning to his job, even though he felt he was ready to return. Also, the employee had fallen while visiting the workplace shortly after surgery, so this may have contributed to the manager’s decision. However, all individuals should have a supportive, positive workplace that makes them feel like productive team members.

Further, not allowing the production line employee to return to work due, in part, because he required an assistive device and a few workplace modifications to perform his job could set up his employer for a potential lawsuit. These lawsuits could come on behalf of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces civil rights in the workplace, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, which protects individuals with disabilities so that they are afforded equal employment opportunities.

A Little Assistance Goes a Long Way

To help find a solution, the employee’s HR manager contacted the company’s disability consultant. In order to have a complete picture, the consultant worked with the manager, the employee and the employee’s physician to better understand the demands of his job and any potential workplace limitations due to his condition.

In addition to the cane, an assistive tool was provided to help the employee grab items that would help him safely perform his job without straining or re-injuring himself. Happily for all, the employee was able to return to work with these modifications.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common for an employee to feel labeled due to his or her medical condition. Whether it’s by co-workers or managers, an employee is oftentimes perceived as unproductive or too costly. A supportive environment is founded on possibilities and successes, not labels and exclusions. An employee who feels supported and valued is productive. And that’s a win-win for both employee and employer.


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