How to Manage a Healthcare Worker’s ADA Request
As in any field, healthcare workers can experience a range of medical disabilities or impairments. It’s important that facility leaders strive toward workplace inclusivity by accommodating employees who are living with underlying conditions. Granting an ADA request is one avenue that can help you remove barriers and enable staff to deliver quality care.
But what exactly are requests for ADA accommodations and how should you go about granting them? If you’re new to this process, we’ll cover the fundamentals of ADA accommodations and what steps you can take to manage requests efficiently and effectively.
What Is an ADA Accommodation Request?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law protecting individuals with disabilities against discrimination. Under Title I of the ADA, employees with certain medical conditions can make accommodation requests to their employers if they’re struggling to carry out their job due to their work environment. Unless doing so would create an undue hardship, facilities are required to grant reasonable accommodations for healthcare workers as long as they fall under all relevant ADA rules and policies.
Who Qualifies for ADA Accommodations in Healthcare?
Any private healthcare facility that employs 15 or more people should follow ADA guidelines. Workers at these facilities are entitled to receive accommodations if they:
- Are not independent contractors (e.g., 1099 contract nurses from staffing agencies)
- Have a physical or mental health condition that limits their ability to carry out basic life activities, such as walking, lifting, seeing, hearing, breathing, or speaking
- Require accommodations to carry out essential functions of their job
- Request accommodations that are considered “reasonable” under the ADA (we’ll describe reasonable accommodations in more depth later on)
Examples of accommodations for healthcare workers may include:
- Switching a night-shift nurse to day shift because they have a condition requiring them to maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Providing accessible telephone equipment for a doctor who has a hearing impairment
- Installing an air vent for a radiology technician with asthma after they report breathing difficulties in the dark room
ADA Reasonable Accommodation Checklist: 5 Steps To Manage Requests
Now that you’ve learned what accommodation requests are, we’ll walk you through five steps you can take to manage them.
1. Establish a System for Receiving Requests
There’s no standard way for healthcare workers to submit accommodation requests, and it’s also not legally required to mention the ADA or use the term “reasonable accommodation.” If an employee asks (in writing or verbally) for workplace modifications linked to a medical condition, an employer is expected to address the request appropriately.
Because of this, facility leaders should implement a clear system for staff who wish to ask for accommodations to prevent an ADA request from being overlooked. This could entail:
- Creating a facility-specific ADA accommodation request form
- Asking workers to send an ADA request letter via email
- Holding office hours for requests to be made and discussed in-person
2. Review the Request
After receiving a request, it’s important to review all necessary information that can help you understand how an employee’s medical condition might impact their work. During the review process, it can help to double check the following:
- Supporting medical documentation — Under the ADA, you are allowed to ask for any medical documentation that is needed to support an employee’s reason for requesting an accommodation.
- Essential job duties — Verifying job duties can help you reassign tasks that are not essential for an employee. This is often a simple yet effective way to provide reasonable accommodation.
- Types of accommodations — Depending on your system for receiving requests, some employees may not mention a specific type of accommodation. It can be helpful to ask for examples of modifications that could help them carry out their duties.
3. Discuss Reasonable Accommodations
Under the ADA, accommodations are considered “reasonable” if they don’t pose an “undue hardship” to a facility. However, what’s considered reasonable for one facility may not be reasonable for another. This will depend on various factors like the size, budget, and structural capacities of a given facility.
If you determine that your facility’s capacities can’t support specific accommodations requested by a worker, it’s important to open up dialogue with the worker and explore alternative ways to remove workplace barriers.
4. Implement Accommodations
Once you and your employee have discussed their ADA request and identified a reasonable accommodation, you should work to implement changes in a timely manner. Keep your employee in the loop throughout this process and have a clear plan for how accommodations will be made. Additionally, notify any other members of the healthcare team that may also be affected by these changes, but be cautious about not disclosing any confidential medical information in the process.
5. Follow Up After Implementation
Sometimes, finding the most suitable way to provide an accommodation may take ongoing evaluation and tweaking. Once an accommodation has been made, you should follow up with the employee who submitted the request and ensure any barriers have been successfully removed. If not, it’s important to reevaluate what further steps can be taken. Remember, this is an interactive process, so ongoing communication is the key to mutually-beneficial outcomes.
Discover More Ways to Build an Inclusive Work Environment
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Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but it is not intended to constitute professional legal advice for any particular situation and should not be relied on as professional legal advice. Any references to the law may not be current as laws regularly change through updates in legislation, regulation, and case law at the federal and state level. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.