As an employer, you've most likely heard about the multimillion-dollar lawsuits and settlements related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the ADA Amendments Act. These acts are designed to protect qualified individuals from job discrimination, but without a consistent management process, employers leave themselves open to costly legal fees and penalties for non-compliance.
Sedgwick recently hosted a webinar discussing ADA/ADAAA compliance, presented by Human Resource Executive. There was a high level of interest and employers asked many thought-provoking questions –reminiscent of the days when companies were adopting Family and Medical Leave Act policies and procedures. Organizations are dealing with overlapping complex employment issues, and as we look ahead to 2015, ADA/ADAAA compliance continues to be among the top concerns for human resource and risk professionals, particularly when considered alongside other disability and absence issues, including FMLA, or workers’ compensation requirements.
How can employers ensure compliance in these areas? Through consistency and integration. The keys to success include adopting consistent management practices to address all types of employee absences, along with an integrated claims system that brings all of the information together.
Developing a consistent process
For ADA/ADAAA accommodations, employers should make every effort to meet the employee’s request unless it truly has a significant impact on their business. The process typically begins when an employee requests a change in the way his or her job is performed or he or she exhausts all job-protected leave while remaining absent from work. For each request, your disability management team should follow a consistent process that includes:
- Capturing the request. Make sure standard procedures regarding leave or accommodation are up to date, clearly communicated to the employee and trigger an interactive process review.
- Working with the physicians to certify the impairment. Set expectations with employees, and request reasonable documentation to determine if they are disabled and if they can perform their jobs with an accommodation. A job accommodation specialist certified in vocational rehabilitation can be very beneficial at this point.
- Navigating through the interactive process. Once the healthcare provider has established that the employee has an impairment but is able to perform job functions with an accommodation, the team will engage in an interactive discussion with the employee, set expectations up front and help them gain an understanding of possible accommodations.
- Working together to determine the appropriate accommodation. Choose the accommodation (if there are more than one) that will allow the disabled person to do his or her job most effectively, such as modifying lifting tasks for a warehouse employee who injured his or her back. This may involve researching technical solutions and adaptive equipment.
- Implementing the accommodation. Discuss the status and next steps with the employee along with a designated contact. The accommodation should be implemented as soon as possible. In some cases, a reasonable accommodation may be unpaid leave.
The advantages of an integrated claim system
An employee’s request for a job accommodation can arise as part of a claim for short- or long-term disability, FMLA or workers’ compensation. It may also stem from a condition that does not qualify for any of these. A claims management system that brings together the information on all types of employee absences, tracks each step in the process and enables comprehensive documentation helps ensure compliance on multiple fronts. Relying on manual tracking methods may lead to compliance violations and increased risk. A centralized information platform that supports multiple processes can greatly reduce that risk – and give the employer a significant advantage in the current regulatory environment.
Integrating claim systems not only helps streamline the information, it can also help employers reduce costs. In fact, over a three year-period, Sedgwick found employers that implemented integrated disability management programs reduced their internal administration costs by an estimated 10 to 20%.
The bottom line
State and federal regulations for ADA/ADAAA, FMLA and workers’ compensation are becoming increasingly complex. Developing a successful compliance program includes ensuring you have the right resources to provide a consistent process supported by a centralized information system that can easily adapt to regulatory changes.
To learn more, please see the additional resources below:
- Sedgwick/HRE-hosted webinar: ADA/ADAAA challenges: Are you compliant?
- Sedgwick Connection blog – read other posts related to ADA/ADAAA
- ADA accommodation overview
- Integrated disability management white paper
Darryl Hammann, EVP Disability Operations