October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Consisting of a national campaign to raise awareness about disability employment issues, this year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”

There’s no better time to remember how vital it is that employers engage in an interactive dialog with employees who have a disability. The interactive process, required by federal law, is basically a dialog between the employer and employee which helps them come up with a reasonable accommodation (that does not create an undue hardship for the employer) to help the employee perform his or her job. Again, the interactive process is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Just last week the EEOC filed suit against Regions Bank in Tennessee for age and disability discrimination. The bank fired a branch manager after she requested accommodation for a disability. The suit alleges that the bank refused her request for reasonable accommodation and failed to engage in the  interactive process to accommodate and, further, that it treated younger managers more favorably.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2009 greatly expanded the definition of who is considered to be disabled. The question, therefore, has shifted from being about whether someone is disabled to how the person can be reasonably accommodated.  Employers should understand that, while they do not necessarily have to agree to a specific accommodation requested by an employee and they do not have to accommodate someone who is not qualified to do the job (with or without accommodation), they absolutely do need to engage in the interactive process.

HRSentry subscribers may find further information about complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (and the Amendments Act of 2009 which greatly expanded the definition of who is considered to be disabled) by logging in to the HRSentry dashboard. Under the Knowledge Menu, click on HR Topic Modules to find the ADA Kit

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