Under Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for both applicants and employees with disabilities. Examples of these accommodations can include restructuring jobs, making worksites and workstations accessible, modifying schedules, and modifying equipment, to just name a few.
As the first step when a new accommodation request is made, the ADA requires employers to engage in what is known as the “Interactive Process”. But what exactly is the Interactive Process? When done correctly, the Interactive Process allows for the best outcomes for both employees and employers.
What is the Interactive Process
Simply put, the Interactive Process is the collaborative conversation made between employer and employee to work together to come up with a “reasonable accommodation” so employees with a disability can effectively complete the essential functions of their job. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Council recommends that all employers engage in the Interactive Process when an employee returns to work after an occupational or non-occupational injury, disease, or disorder.
In the Interactive Process conversation, the employee may request an accommodation or offer suggestions for accommodations that will create an environment that allows them to perform the essential job functions of their position. A reasonable accommodation is one that does not create an “undue hardship” on the employer. It is important to note, that during this conversation, an employer may not ask for specifics regarding any medical issues and it isn’t the employer’s role to determine if the employee’s challenge meets the requirements for a qualifying disability. Those determinations need to be made by a medical professional.
What Makes an Effective Interactive Process
When it comes to getting the most out of the Interactive Process, it is important to create two-way communication. Both the employer and the employee must be engaged in the process for it to work. However, many employees feel unequipped or uncomfortable navigating the potential minefield that can come with the Interactive Process.
Because of the sensitive nature of accommodation requests, many employers often hire outside consultants to manage requests for reasonable accommodations and to facilitate the Interactive Process.
Whether managing the Interactive Process internally or working with an outside consultant, the Interactive Process should include:
- Discussion with requesting party regarding needs
- Review of all supporting documents and clarifying restrictions, as needed
- Analysis of the regular job performed and determination of its purpose and essential functions
- Assistance in the identification of reasonable accommodations opportunities
- Documentation of all efforts to ensure ADA compliance
The Briotix Health Interactive Process
Briotix Health’s Accommodations experts move beyond simply facilitating the Interactive Process, and work with employers to provide guidance and professional support so they can focus more on their business operations. We work as an objective third party to facilitate meaningful dialog between employer and employee to ensure positive outcomes for both parties. Additionally, our clinical staff works with healthcare providers to clarify restrictions. This includes limiting the employer’s exposure to an ADA action and creating a process where an employee feels comfortable and confident in the results.
To learn more about how Briotix Health handles the Interactive Process, or for more general information on Accommodations consulting, click the download below.