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How to Treat Employees Equally and Provide Tailored Accommodations
As an HR manager, part of your complex job is addressing medical conditions and implementing accommodations at work for employees. You have to balance two mindsets — treating employees equally day to day and helping them get individualized support for an injury, illness or mental health condition. Those mindsets seem counterintuitive and may be difficult to toggle between.
On one hand, you must treat employees equally, and ensure that your organization is in compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. On the other hand, providing accommodations, which may be required under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), involves working with an employee individually.
How can you move between those two mindsets more easily, without having to worry about misstepping? The answer may lie with your disability carrier and its accommodations experts. The experts from disability programs like Workplace PossibilitiesSM can take the burden of individual employee assessment and accommodations off your plate, integrating with the HR team to provide complementary expertise.1
That collaboration can address some of the most common questions or concerns you may have. Here are the most common questions I get from employers and how working with your disability carrier can address them:
1. I’m not a specialist in ergonomics, so how can I determine what’s best for employees?
To help your employees, you do not need to know the ins and outs of ergonomics — or health conditions in general, for that matter. Through programs like Workplace Possibilities, you have access to a whole network of consultants and experts that can supplement your HR knowledge with years of experience and education in specific areas like ADAAA accommodations and ergonomics. These experts can step in to help you figure out what’s best for each employee.
2. I’m getting requests for accommodations, but how can I know what’s necessary or appropriate for individual employees?
Individual assessments are another area where you can lean on consultants from your disability carrier for help. These experts can help you consider an employee’s accommodation from start to finish. Even if an accommodation has already been implemented, a consultant can keep checking in with the employee to see if it is working or if it needs to be adjusted, helping ensure that the employee is getting what they need.
3. If I give one employee a sit/stand desk, do I have to give one to every employee?
One size does not fit all when it comes to accommodations. While some employees’ health conditions may require an accommodation like a sit/stand desk, others could benefit more from something like a custom ergonomic chair. Each situation is unique and depends on the employee’s limitations and restrictions due to their medical condition and job requirements. So how are you supposed to treat employees equally while giving them different accommodations? Your disability carrier can help enact services to ensure that all employees go through the same stay-at-work or return-to-work assessment process, even if that means they have different outcomes. By undergoing the same evaluation process, each employee can receive accommodations or other modifications that are appropriate for their needs.
As a former HR manager, I know that changing your mindset to thinking about employee accommodations on an individual basis may not be easy, but it can be made easier with a good disability carrier. By inviting the experts from your disability carrier and programs like Workplace Possibilities to integrate with and complement your team, you can feel more confident in your ability to meet the accommodation needs of individual employees.
1 The Standard provides administrative-, informational- and referral-type services, and a client should not rely on Workplace Possibilities to ensure its compliance with ADAAA requirements.