HR & Benefits News is a monthly column by Chris Cooley, co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors.
Grocery stores have a diverse set of employees, which is a great thing. The roles they take also vary, which is why ADA compliance should always be important. So, what exactly does comply with ADA standards mean?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is intended to prevent discrimination and requires employers to reasonably accommodate “qualified individuals with disabilities.” This article is intended to inform you and help you with compliance within your workforce.
What are ADA requirements for employers?
In general, the ADA requires employers that have 15 or more employees to accommodate individuals with disabilities. In some cases, the accommodation is obvious. In others, the situation may require a dialog with the affected employee. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages employees and employers to work together to develop a reasonable workplace accommodation.
Who qualifies for protection under ADA?
The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Qualified individuals are defined as:
- Meets legitimate skill, experience, education or other requirements of an employment position that he or she holds or seeks; and
- Who can perform the “essential functions” of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.
If an individual is qualified to perform essential job functions but has limitations caused by a disability, the employer should consider whether a reasonable accommodation could be made. If a written job description has been prepared in advance of posting a job, this may be considered as evidence of the essential functions of the job. Have an HR professional assist in writing job descriptions to prepare for this expectation.
Disabilities are defined by the EEOC as:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- A person who has a history or record of such an impairment; or
- A person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
Due to the broad nature of this definition, employers are encouraged to communicate directly with employees during the accommodation process and thereafter.
Explaining an ADA reasonable accommodation
The EEOC defines reasonable accommodation as a “change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.” An accommodation is “reasonable” if it “seems reasonable on its face (i.e., ordinarily or in the run of cases)” or if it appears to be “feasible” or “plausible.” Some suggestions for what reasonable accommodations can look like:
• Making existing facilities accessible;
• Job restructuring;
• Part-time or modified work schedules;
• Acquiring or modifying equipment;
• Changing tests, training materials or policies; and
• Providing qualified readers or interpreters.
This list is non-exhaustive, visit the EEOC page for more information.
Keep up with your paperwork for ADA compliance
Documentation is especially important when it comes to the ADA. If a discrimination claim comes your way, you’ll be thankful to have a record of communication and accommodation. Consider scheduling regular meetings with the affected employee for an update and keep a record of these conversations and provide a copy to the individual for maximum transparency.
The following steps outline the suggested steps to the accommodation process:
• Recognizing an accommodation request;
• Receiving a request;
• Gathering information;
• Requesting documentation;
• Exploring accommodation options;
• Determining “reasonableness;”
• Choosing an accommodation; and
• Picking and implementing the accommodation.
Is it really worth it to be in ADA compliance?
It is never worth it for a grocer to take a compliance risk and when it comes to the law, noncompliance almost always means serious consequences. Under the ADA, noncompliance can mean thousands of dollars in fines. The maximum civil penalty for a first violation is $75,000, while penalties for subsequent violations can be up to $150,000. Beyond fines, failing to comply with the ADA can leave employers exposed to lawsuits. Avoid this risk early on by working with your HR professional.
For help with handbooks, assistance with job descriptions or other HR needs, contact MyHRConcierge at 1-855-538-6947 ext. 108 or email [email protected].