Network - Spring 2011 - (Page 28)

O Feature Common “Mistakes” to In Accommodation and How By Adrian Elmslie R ecently I was asked what I thought were some of the more common “mistakes” or missteps employers make when dealing with accommodation issues. While I was tempted to provide the standard lawyer’s answer of “it depends,” I was able to identify what in my experience are the top five mistakes that I see employers make when dealing with disabled employees in need of accommodation. I have outlined those “mistakes” below along with some advice on how employers can avoid them. and participating in the accommodation process (including assessment of options and the implementation of returnto-work plans and programs). Once each party understands the objective of the process and their roles and responsibilities in facilitating the process, many other common mistakes can be avoided. 2) Failing to Gather the Right Type of Medical Information The second mistake that I see with regularity is the failure to seek out and gather sufficient information regarding the employee’s functional limitations and how they affect the employee’s ability to work. A disability claim often starts with a rather brief note from the employee’s family doctor indicating that the employee is unable to work due to “medical reasons.” Often the note provides no further explanation and gives no insight as to why it is that the medical condition prevents the employee from working. The mistake I commonly see is that the employer makes no further inquiry (either through the employee or directly from the doctor with the employee’s consent) thereby leaving the employer in the dark as to what the future holds with respect to the employee and whether any accommodation is or will be possible. In order to avoid this problem, the employer needs to be proactive and seek out the needed information. Usually this is done through a letter to the employee’s treating physician. This letter should include the following elements: • An introduction confirming that the employer is writing to seek information required to address the employee’s alleged disability and possible accommodation to permit the employee’s return to work; • If the information is being sought through the employee, a statement confirming that it is the employee’s NETWORK O Spring 2011 1) Failing to Understand the Accommodation Process The first mistake I see is a failure to properly understand the accommodation process and in particular the obligations that the law places on the various parties involved. Embarking on an attempted accommodation without first understanding the end goal and the process itself is like trying to build a house without a blueprint. The employer always needs to keep in mind that the focus in accommodation cases is on removing the barriers that the disability imposes to the employee returning to work or carrying out his or her duties. In order to successfully navigate the accommodation process, employers need to understand their obligations. These obligations include: explaining the accommodation process to the employee; seeking out information regarding the employee’s disability and limitations; assessing possible methods of accommodation; and managing the return-to-work process. Similarly, employers also need to understand the employee’s obligations in the accommodation process. These include: providing access to proper medical information which adequately supports the employee’s claim of disability and functional limitations; and cooperating 28 O

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Network - Spring 2011

Network - Spring 2011
HRIA President’s Message
Legal Precedents Clarify Accommodation Procedure
Thank You!
Accommodation: Have a Plan and Stick to It
Disability Management and Duty to Accommodate: The Need for Good Documentation
Accommodating Disability, Not Bad Behaviour
Common “Mistakes” In Accommodation and How to Avoid Them
Case Studies: Managing Workplace Back and Neck Injuries
Accommodating Addictions in the Workplace
Duty to Accommodate – Employee Responsibilities
The Separation of Church and Work
When to Cut Sick Staff Off
The HR Office
Index of Advertisers

Network - Spring 2011