Preventing ADA Claims Starts With Clearing the Confusion

If the numbers keep trending, nearly 30,000 ADA related claims are expected at EEOC in 2013. Here’s how to ensure your company isn’t one of those hit.

Last year’s ADA-related cases with the EEOC totaled more than 26,000 claims and over $100 million in damages awarded. With a law that’s been around since 1990, why are there still so many employers who don’t get it?

There are several common threads we see in the cases filed, pointing to some common misbeliefs by employers that may account for a lot of the complaints. Here are a few of the biggies:

Getting tripped up by terminology: “Disability” has a lot of definitions, legal and otherwise. Relying on the wrong one is where the problems occur. Attorneys don’t actually need to establish whether or not an employee is disabled to present a claim – just a “medical condition” that restricts their ability to perform some aspect(s) of their normal work functions. The main question in the EEOC court is whether or not an employee’s medical condition is being accommodated.

Demanding too much proof: At least when it comes to determining an employee’s FMLA eligibility, proof of the medical condition itself – but not necessarily its disabling effects – should be sufficient, according to recent guidance by the Department of Labor. The DOL says employers should not conduct an “extensive analysis” of whether a medical condition is actually a disability.

Mistakenly believing only on-the-job injury disabilities must be accommodated: The ADA equally applies to disabilities caused by non-work related incidents, and employers must try to accommodate them just as they would if the injury occurred during work. An “interactive process” must be used to determine if any disabled employees can perform the essential functions of their jobs with or without accommodations. Work restrictions directed by the employee’s doctor must be observed, and it’s illegal to have a policy requiring that individuals seeking job reinstatement have no work-related restrictions.

There are still plenty of reasons you could land in hot water with the EEOC, but applying some of these common sense policies will help avoid getting hit with some of the most common claims.

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