By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. What I find fascinating is the story of the woman behind this initiative — Shelly Thomas Christensen. I spoke with Shelly recently to discuss her experience as a parent, advocate and business woman.
Shelly identifies as a mom of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome who was not diagnosed until he was in high school. She reports feeling frustrated and angry as she advocated for him to receive services in his public school, seeing firsthand how little the professionals at his school were invested in him achieving academic success.
“I just detest people blocking others’ success,” she reflected inspiring her to turn her energy towards making a difference in this arena. Convinced she could change the way things were, she became a trained parent advocate, gaining knowledge and strength. Although her son’s experience in his synagogue school was positive because he was treated like any other student, Shelly learned this was not the case for many people in the Jewish community. This motivated her to turn her attention to a new initiative at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis supporting people with disabilities in Jewish community life.
“We are not just someone’s mitzvah project,” she says. “All people deserve the respect to grow to be who they can be, including holding a job. That was the beginning,” she reflects.
While surrounded by successful business owners with disabilities, Shelly experienced her “aha” moment: “If people with disabilities can own their own businesses, so can I!” Learning from those whom she initially helped realize their potential, Shelly launched her consulting company — Inclusion Innovations. What she quickly noticed was that she was one of a handful of people representing faith communities in important disability rights spaces and decided to spread this novel idea throughout the Jewish community. She describes her business as designing, “individualized strategies and programs for faith communities ready to explore ways to shift to a more inclusive environment.” Through this work, she could help individuals with disabilities get more of what they want out of life as valued members of the Jewish community. For Shelly, helping someone get what they want and need out of their faith community naturally leads to these same individuals being seen by their fellow congregants as multifaceted individuals — employees, spouses, parents, athletes, and so much more. She emphasizes, “When we value people, anything is possible.”
By: Beth Loy, Principal Consultant
If you take a management class or two, you get a lot of theory. You might read about the Hawthorne Effect, which tells us that employees work harder when they get attention. You may subscribe to the Peter Principle. If you do, you promote employees based on their performance in their current role, not their qualifications for the intended role. You could believe in systems management, where employees are just pieces of a greater machine. But, being a good manager means understanding your workers, and this takes skill and practice.
A good manager has several qualities, including empathy, experience, and knowledge. Listening, leading, and delegating help a manager focus on making good decisions in a global environment. Being transparent, finding ways to motivate and inspire, supporting innovation, and encouraging effective communication are pivotal skills to engaging a productive workforce. But, what about disability? How do we manage disability issues? Let’s look at Ernest.
Ernest has been a manager for 10 years. Recently, his company took on an initiative to hire employees with disabilities. This is new to him, but he’s been known for leading employees effectively while making firm decisions. Ernest can look back at what it takes to be a good manager and push forward with including disability as a function of his management.
For example, Ernest tends to be very empathetic with his decision-making. Whether it’s related to scheduling around soccer games or helping employees navigate their insurance, he tries to find an answer. It’s now up to Ernest to understand that disability is just another area of focus for him. To support this, Ernest can concentrate on:
- Applicants: Recruiting employees with disabilities is an important step in encouraging a disability-friendly environment. Working with service providers and specific job banks enables employers to actively seek talented people with disabilities who are looking for work.
- Interns: Working with a local school or the Workforce Recruitment Program to bring on youths with disabilities will give the organization a chance to work with highly motivated students with disabilities.
- Employees: It’s important to train all employees on disability etiquette and their rights to accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Frontline Supervisors: All frontline supervisors should be aware of the ADA. Knowing how to recognize an accommodation request and begin the interactive process is crucial.
- Motivational Events: Having guest speakers, celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month, creating an employee resource group, or working with a nonprofit will make employees aware of the contributions of workers with disabilities.
It seems Ernest has all of the skills he needs to be successful with his new disability inclusion initiative; now he just needs to take those skills and put them to work. Facilitating the integration of people with disabilities is no different than managing people without disabilities, but you have to drive those changes at your workplace. The Job Accommodation Network can help you do that through training, technical assistance, consultation, and information. And, it’s all for free!
Understand that disability is the one minority group that you can join at any time. Also be aware that if you lack that understanding, the ADA does have teeth, and the enforcing agency for the ADA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is just a phone call away at (800)669-4000 or (800)669-6820 (TTY).
By: Linda Carter Batiste, Principal Consultant
Remember the old saying, “He knows just enough to be dangerous”? I find this saying popping into my head over and over when I talk with employers about reassignment as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For what seems like such a straightforward concept, reassignment sure ends up being one of those things employers have trouble getting right. Let me share several of the most frequent things I hear.
First, and I’d say foremost, I hear employers saying, “We’re not allowed to reassign an employee with a disability unless we can’t accommodate in the current job.” Well, this is true unless the employee and the employer agree that reassignment is the best option. I’ve talked to many employers who insist on trying to keep an employee in his current job even when the employee asks to be reassigned because the employer thinks that’s how it must be done. As with many things under the ADA, this is one where there’s an exception to the general rule that reassignment is the accommodation of last resort.
Next, I frequently hear from employers who are in the process of reassigning an employee with a disability and they have found the perfect vacant job. However, the job is a promotion and, the employer says, “We’re not allowed to promote an employee as an accommodation under the ADA.” Okay, that’s half right. The ADA doesn’t require employers to promote an employee as an accommodation, but at the same time it doesn’t prohibit it; employers are not prohibited from going beyond what’s required by the ADA as long as it benefits the employee with a disability.
Another thing I hear from employers is that when reassigning as an accommodation, it is okay to make an employee do his own job search and apply for whatever job openings he finds. My question for these employers is, “How is this an accommodation? Isn’t this what all employees do when they want another job?” The response I often get is, “Well, yes, but we think this is the fair way to do reassignment, we give the employee an equal chance to compete for jobs.” Okay, the problem here is that the other employees don’t have disabilities and they can do their current jobs so you’re really not giving employees with disabilities an equal chance by making them do the same job search as others. When reassigning as an accommodation, you should actively help find an appropriate vacant job and then place the employee in the job without making him compete. Otherwise, you’re not really making an accommodation.
And the final thing I want to mention that comes up a lot in my conversations with employers is related to seniority systems. I get calls from employers who implement seniority systems, but then have all kinds of exceptions to them for all kinds of reasons except disability-related reasons. They cite the Supreme Court holding that said it is “unreasonable” to reassign an employee with a disability if doing so would violate the rules of a seniority system. That does not mean that you write a discriminatory rule into your seniority system and then you get a free pass! It means that if you have a consistent, uniformly applied system in which jobs are assigned by seniority, you don’t have to bypass that system when reassigning under the ADA. But if you grant exceptions, then you might have to grant an exception for an employee with a disability who needs to be reassigned.
So next time you’re faced with reassignment as an accommodation, I hope you’ll remember a saying my dad taught me: “Always lift up the hood and check the batteries.” Applying this to the ADA, you can’t just rely on the general rules you hear; you always need to check for the exceptions!
And for more information about reassignment and other ADA issues, visit the Matrix Radar Blog.
By Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist
Lately, I’ve had that holiday tune, Baby It’s Cold Outside, melodically playing in my mind (imagine the Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet rendition). The song makes me smile and, ironically, warms my soul. Of course, it’s the holiday season and that means the song is playing everywhere we go. But, this isn’t the only reason I’ve had this catchy tune on my mind; JAN customers have me thinking of it as well. Now that winter has arrived, we’ve been hearing from employers who have questions about accommodating employees who are sensitive to cold temperatures. Interestingly though, the questions have been about the impact of exposure to cold indoor temperatures.
Thermostat wars are a common ongoing battle in the office. You’ve experienced it, right? Co-workers stealthily sneaking around the corner, adjusting the heat up or down to their comfort level when no one else is watching. It’s probably fair to say that there is no particular temperature that is comfortable for everyone. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not regulate indoor workplace temperature but does recommend that temperatures be maintained in the range of 68-76° F. This range may be comfortable for many workers, but not all. Although this indoor temperature range is suggested, some workplaces maintain indoor temperatures (in cool and warm months) that fall well below 68° (I’ve heard as low as 61°), making it a frigid environment, particularly for those who are medically sensitive to cold temperatures.
Sensitivity to cold temperatures is a limitation associated with a number of impairments, including anemia, asthma, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and thyroid disorders. Some individuals with these types of impairments experience joint pain, stiffness, or numbness in their extremities (i.e., hands, fingers, toes) in response to cold temperatures, while others experience difficulty breathing. Exposure to cold temperatures at work can cause these symptoms to flare-up, making it difficult for an affected employee to perform job duties. This can lead to a request for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
One solution for dealing with the effects of the cold indoors is a small space heater to be used at an employee’s workstation. JAN Consultants are frequently asked if an employer has any obligation to provide a space heater as an accommodation for an employee who requests one due to a medical impairment. This isn’t about providing a space heater simply to improve personal comfort, but rather, to enable an employee to manage the impact of the cold on their impairment, and in-turn, performance. Some employers provide space heaters to employees for non-disability related reasons, or allow employees to bring their own heaters to work. But, is there a duty to provide a space heater as an accommodation under the ADA? Or, is a space heater a personal need item?
In situations where the temperature is extreme, it could possibly be argued that if the employer is creating a workplace barrier by maintaining an indoor temperature that 1) falls below the minimum suggested standard, and 2) has an adverse effect on an employee’s medical impairment and ability to perform job duties, then the employer may have some responsibility to provide a reasonable accommodation to eliminate that barrier – this could include providing a space heater. If a healthcare provider can confirm the existence of an impairment and that the extreme temperature of the work environment causes limitations that affect performance, then there will be medical justification for the accommodation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that, in some situations, items that might otherwise be considered personal may be required as reasonable accommodations where they are required to meet job-related rather than personal needs (EEOC, 2002). While a space heater may seem like a personal need item, when it is needed to help an employee perform job duties effectively, it may be a reasonable accommodation. It often makes sense to err on the side of caution, do a risk analysis, and use common sense when considering accommodations. At a cost of about $30.00 for a small space heater, it may be difficult to demonstrate that this low-cost solution is not reasonable. And, it’s certainly a lot less expensive to provide the accommodation than to deal with a disability discrimination complaint alleging failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.
In addition to a space heater, there are other accommodations that might be considered to manage the cold indoors. Some ideas can be found on JAN’s AskJAN.org website under A-Z, by limitation, temperature sensitivity, but consider the following:
- Adjust work-site temperature
- Redirect or cover air vents using air deflectors or vent covers
- Do not situate workstation under air vents, near cold windows, or near opening exterior doors
- Move workstation to warmer area of building
- Use window insulation, rubber weather sealing, heavy curtains, or shades on windows to reduce draft
- Provide an enclosed workspace with separate temperature control
- Allow use of heated blanket, heating pad, hand warmers, etc.
- Modify dress code to allow wearing of layers, gloves, outerwear, etc.
- Provide speech recognition software to limit keyboarding
- Allow flexible scheduling
- Allow flexible use of leave
- Allow work from home or an alternate (warmer) location
Accommodation needs and situations vary. If you have a specific situation or question you’d like to discuss with a JAN consultant, we’ll be happy to assist you. Contact us directly or visit AskJAN.org.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2002). Enforcement guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html
By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Mobility Team
It’s that time again! With all the holiday festivities at the end of the year, we may be tempted to bring in those leftovers, or wear that new perfume, but what may seem like a nice gesture or harmless fun can turn deadly if someone in the workplace is allergic.
If your business has a fragrance-free policy in place, this may be a good time to remind folks about it.
If your business does not currently have a policy, this may be a good time to develop one.
JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series:
Employees with Fragrance Sensitivity provides sample policy language to help with this process.
The additional following general policies may be good starting places:
Ensure that all employer controlled spaces are fragrance-free:
- Remove air fresheners from bathrooms
- Use only fragrance-free soaps in bathrooms and kitchens
- Provide hand lotion and hand sanitizer for employee use, ensuring only fragrance-free types are used
- Ensure frequent and appropriate cleaning of workspaces with fragrance-free/chemical-free cleaners
Ensure that all employer controlled maintenance, repair, and remodeling are fragrance/chemical-free:
- Use fragrance/chemical-free insecticide/pesticides
- Use fragrance/chemical-free industrial cleaning agents
- Use fragrance/chemical-free glues, sealants, waxes, and paints/stains
Ensure that all employer controlled spaces limit or prohibit known food allergens and/or provide appropriate accommodations:
- Implement a policy restricting certain foods from the workplace
- Permit extra time during lunch so the employee may go home to eat
- Permit flexible scheduling so the employee with a food allergy may work when less people are present in the workplace to decrease possible exposure
- Relocate employee’s workspace to reduce possibility of exposure to offending foods
- Provide designated, well-ventilated area for all food to be stored, prepared, and eaten
More information regarding accommodating people with fragrance/chemical sensitivities can be found at Accommodation Ideas for Respiratory Disorders.
More information regarding accommodating people with food allergies can be found at Job Accommodations for People with Food Allergies.
Here’s to wishing you all a safe and happy rest of 2015 — from the JAN family!
By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
As I was driving on the interstate this past week, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the trees had lost their leaves. The beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges have slowly become bare branches. This, along with the slowly declining temperatures means one thing…winter is coming. Winter has its own excitement with the holidays and many traditions; however, at times it tends to bring with it feelings of dread. Winter means snow, ice, and for those of us in daylight savings time, shorter days. It’s easy to feel not ready and sad as the warm days leave us. But for some people, these feelings can be more intense than others.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that comes and goes with the change in seasons. SAD is most common in the winter months starting in the beginning of fall and peaking in December, January, and February (Mental Health America).
Common symptoms include:
- Irritability and stress intolerance
- Decreased energy
- Changes in weight
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Decreased interest in daily activities, sex, and social interactions
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
While the cause of SAD is unknown, it is believed that the reduced level of sunlight during the winter months disrupts the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), as well as the body’s levels of serotonin and melatonin (Mayo Clinic). This can impact sleep patterns as well as mood.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are certain factors that increase an individual’s risk for SAD. These risk factors include:
- Being female
- Age – onset typically between the ages of 18 and 30
- Family history of SAD
- Having depression or bipolar disorder
- Living far north or south of the equator- it is said to be rare in those who live within 30 degrees of the equator
Treatment for SAD can include prescription medications that fall within the same family of drugs that help treat depression. These types of drugs are typically non-sedative selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs.
Another type of treatment is phototherapy. This type of therapy includes exposure to high intensity bright lights such as sun lamps or sun boxes. These forms of light are often portable and can easily be placed on a desk or table in a work area. They also can be used at home to simulate natural light and help reduce fatigue and feelings of depression.
Additional information regarding SAD as well as a variety of light products can be found at this Consultants’ Corner.
JAN also offers information on accommodating individuals with various types of depression in the workplace — Accommodation Ideas for Depression.
While the winter months can bog us down with gray skies and cold weather, make sure to find time these next few months for things you enjoy. Whether it’s spending time with family and friends, planning a ski trip, or curling up on the couch with a good book and some hot chocolate, don’t forget to take time for yourself. Spring will be here before we know it!
Mayo Clinic – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Mental Health America – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
By: Kim Cordingly, Lead Consultant – Self-Employment
At almost every event or conference I attend, one of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “What kind of businesses do people with disabilities start?” My response to the question tends to reframe it, because almost any type of business you can imagine a person without a disability might want to start, is just as likely to be a business idea we’ve consulted about. I’m continually amazed at the creativity, vision, and resourcefulness these aspiring entrepreneurs reveal in their ideas.
Choosing self-employment or starting a small business in many cases enables an individual with a disability to build workplace accommodations into the design of their business. This ability to customize is one of its key benefits. At JAN, we can address both inquiries about the business development process, as well as specific accommodation questions.
While all information provided to JAN is confidential, and people are understandably protective of their unique business ideas, I’d like to share in general terms some of the business ideas JAN callers have contacted us about over the years. All the names used in the examples are pseudonyms.
WELDER/ARTIST – “Ken” had extensive experience in welding as a technical career, but also wanted to develop his artistic side. His plan was to contract out his welding services while also producing works of art using welding techniques and leftover metal materials.
PET SUPPORT FOR SENIORS – “Nellie” wanted to provide support services to seniors and their pets – specifically handling those tasks a senior may no longer comfortably be able to do such as walking the dog, taking the pet to vet appointments, and so on.
BOOK ILLUSTRATOR – “Angela” had extensive experience in the publishing industry, but preferred to do the work as a contractor on a project to project basis. In such a specialized field and with a background in specific types of detailed illustrations, this made for an excellent self-employment transition.
EVENT PLANNER/WEDDING SITE – “Alex” owned beautiful rural property conducive to a wedding venue, so wanted to build on this asset and develop additional wedding services to compliment the use of the site.
PROFESSIONAL SCIENCE WRITER – “Margaret” had extensive academic training in the sciences and wanted to parlay this into a professional writing career. In particular, she was interested in writing about environmental topics of importance to her.
BOUTIQUE/COTTAGE FOOD PRODUCTION – “Paul” had family recipes he felt were delicious, regionally unique, and marketable. With the growth of farmer’s markets and a focus on buying local, he believed customers would be very interested in his products.
TECH SUPPORT – “Keith” had been providing tech support to friends and friends of friends for years, but was now ready to turn it into a business where he would be compensated. He also wanted to focus on providing computer support to small businesses in his community who may not be able to afford their own IT person.
COUTURE WEDDING GOWNS – “Cathy” had over the years developed great design and sewing skills and was interested in a business making one-of-a-kind, couture wedding gowns for her clientele.
MOBILE AUTO DETAILING – “Donna” planned a business where she would go to people’s homes or businesses and detail their cars. No need to drop their car off – she would go to them.
BLUEBERRY FARMER – “Carl” was a savvy farmer who had over the years developed a blueberry bush that could withstand variable climates and soil conditions. He planned to sell them across the U.S. via mail order catalog and online.
FOOD TRUCK VENDOR – “Mike” saw a need for a food truck vendor at kids’ baseball games, local flea markets, and other community events. He wanted to offer a delicious but healthier alternative to french fries and cotton candy.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY CONSULTANT – “Tom” had extensive experience in the alternative energy sector and wanted to consult with small businesses and homeowners on how to make their building more energy efficient and better for the environment.
RV AND CAMPSITE OWNER – “Sandy” and her family wanted to turn their property on a lake into a RV park and campground that would focus on the accessibility of the site for vacationers with disabilities.
ONLINE TUTOR – “Alice” was a former teacher with an excellent math/science background who wanted to tutor secondary school age adolescents in these disciplines. She would also help prepare students for college entrance exams.
RECORDING ENGINEER (CONTRACTOR) – With the proliferation of sophisticated computer and audio technology, “Sam” would use his skills and his own equipment to work with independent musical artists to create sound recordings.
JEWELRY DESIGNER – “Sue” designs nature-inspired jewelry and wanted to expand her business beyond her local market to include online sites such as Etsy. This would also allow her to do more specialized custom design work.
COACHING/CURRICULUM DEVELOPER – “Naomi” wanted to use her extensive oratory experience to work as a private coach for clients who had difficulty with public speaking, constructing effective presentations, and general assertiveness training in the workplace. She was also interested in developing an online training curriculum on these topics.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – Entrepreneurship
Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
Self-Employment & Entrepreneurship
Making Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities (2nd Edition, 2014)
Cary Griffin, David Hammis, Beth Keeton and Molly Sullivan
Disability.gov’s Guide to Self-Employment and Starting a Small Business
By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
Not only is October National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but it is also Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. JAN is joining with others such as LD OnLine and the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) to bring more awareness of learning disabilities and to share information about our resources.
What does the term learning disabilities really mean? Learning Disabilities refer to a number of disorders that may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning.
Learning disabilities result from impairments in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning. They range in severity and may interfere with the acquisition and use of oral language, reading, written language, and mathematics. Learning disabilities may also involve difficulties with organizational skills, social perception, social interaction, and understanding the perspectives of others (Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 2015).
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan stated the following in a proclamation. It reads in part:
“Awareness of learning disabilities is one of the most important advances in education in recent years. As more and more Americans become aware, our citizens with learning disabilities will have even greater opportunity to lead full and productive lives and to make a contribution to our society.”
Read on to see how some famous individuals with learning disabilities have greatly contributed to our society. These individuals show that although learning disabilities may present challenges, they don’t limit one’s chances for success. Having a learning disability may have in fact played an important role in helping these individuals find the determination to achieve their goals. The following partial list of prominent figures with learning disabilities can surely be a source of inspiration!
From the entertainment industry: Orlando Bloom, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Keira Knightley, Steven Spielberg, and Henry Winkler
Sports figures: Muhammed Ali, Terry Bradshaw, Magic Johnson, and Tim Tebow
Business leaders: Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Charles Schwab, and Ted Turner
Journalist and writers: Agatha Christie, Anderson Cooper, Richard Engel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scientists/Inventors: Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein
Military leaders: George Patton and Winston Churchill
If you or someone you know has a learning disability and is looking for assistance in overcoming some of the difficulties that may be present in the workplace, look no further. JAN’s resources include a newly updated Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Learning Disabilities, as well as Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Executive Functioning Deficits for accommodation ideas. We also have information on documentation of a learning disability, organizations, and SOAR – our Searchable Online Accommodation Resource. This tool can walk you step-by-step through the accommodation process, offer accommodation ideas, and provide product information. All of these resources can be found at Accommodation Ideas for Learning Disabilities.
JAN’s consultants on the cognitive/neurological team are available to help answer your questions about the accommodation process, disclosure, and information that can help you in your specific situation. Please feel free to contact us.
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. (2015). Official Definition of Learning Disabilities. Retrieved October 27, 2015 from http://ldac-acta.ca.
Famous People with the Gift of Dyslexia, retrieved from http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm October 27, 2015.
Success Stories: Celebrities with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Dyscalculia, retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/personal-stories/famous-people/success-stories-celebrities-with-dyslexia-adhd-and-dyscalculia October 27, 2015.
By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team
One of the most positive things about more people surviving breast cancer, and cancer diagnoses in general, is that life after a diagnosis goes on, including one’s work life. Many are able to continue working through treatment, while others choose to focus on treatment and then return to work. Often less recognized is that while a clinical diagnosis is made on a specific date, and various treatments are done on specific dates, the side effects may linger on for weeks, months, and sometimes years.
Cancer, as many oncologists say, is a lifelong, chronic condition. For some this may be a direct result of the disease process, while for others it may be the result of side effects from necessary, but often potent, treatment protocols.
Just like with any other chronic condition, people who have had breast cancer can be fantastic employees. Some return to work and continue on as they did prior to their diagnosis. Others may need accommodations to be the best employee they can be.
The following are some potential areas of accommodation that may assist someone who has had a diagnosis of breast cancer:
Need for ongoing medical treatment, follow-up appointments, and monitoring:
- Allow for a flexible schedule
- Allow employee to telework
- Allow for additional leave time
Need for an ergonomically adjusted workspace due to lifting restrictions, pain management, and so on:
- Provide workspace adjustments to desk height, monitor height, chair, arm support, and reach ranges for equipment and materials
- Provide ergonomically appropriate tools
- Allow for breaks from repetitive tasks
- Modify workspace layout to avoid tasks done over the head
- Allow time for physical movement to help circulation
Need for supports with cognitive processing:
- Allow for self-paced workload
- Adjust supervisory method to allow for prompting, adjusting instructional or management method, breaking large tasks into smaller tasks
- Allow for one task to be completed before the next is presented
Need to manage fatigue:
- Allow for periodic rest breaks
- Allow for a modified schedule
- Redesign workspace to bring all necessary materials within easy reach range
- Limit physical exertion required
- Move workspace closer to door, break room, or restroom
- Provide personal mobility device to maneuver around workspace without exerting more effort
- Allow telework from home and remote access to meetings
While wearing pink brings awareness to the needs of those who are living with or have survived breast cancer, providing accommodations concretely changes the lives of those who are affected, as well as strengthening the business as a whole.
For more information:
Accommodation Ideas for Cancer
EEOC Fact Sheet: Questions and Answers About Cancer in the Workplace and ADA
By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant – ADA Specialist
Inclusion. Equality. Fairness. Respect. It’s reasonable to say that all of these words have significant meaning to everyone, particularly at work. All employees should be able to participate in, and contribute to, the progress and success of an organization by being included, by being afforded equal rights, and by being treated fairly and respectfully. However, sometimes employees feel they cannot be themselves at work and will not fully engage as part of the team if they don’t believe these basic human rights can be realized – if the workplace is not inclusive of all employees or the culture is not forward-thinking. This can be especially true for individuals who transition from one gender to another, or who identify as a different gender than what they were assigned at birth.
JAN receives inquiries from employers seeking information about ways to include transgender employees in the workplace. Transgender is a term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior are different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth (NCTE, 2015). For example, a transgender man may have been assigned female at birth, but identifies as a man. Many of the inquiries JAN receives related to transgender issues come from employers who have an employee who has been employed for some time and is known as one gender, but is transitioning to a different gender. Our discussions with employers and others often center-around supporting the employee’s transition and making modifications at work that ensure that transgender employees are able to work in a manner consistent with how they live their daily lives, based on their gender identity.
The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) does not apply to situations involving workers who are transgender because being transgender is not considered a disability under the ADA. However, more and more businesses are recognizing the need to establish policies related to accommodating transgender workers – without an established federal mandate to do so. The accommodation process can be similar to that applied to workers with disabilities. When a transgender employee makes the employer aware of his or her transition and identifies work-related needs as part of the process, it’s time to have an open dialogue with the employee to discuss the employee’s needs, work-related barriers, and solutions for overcoming those barriers. Ask how the environment or means of communication can be adapted to promote inclusion and make the effort to maintain a supportive work environment that enables the individual to be him or herself. It’s also critically important to educate human resource personnel, supervisors, and managers about respectfully discussing transgender issues with employees.
Having gender transition guidelines available for human resource personnel and supervisors and managers will prepare staff to appropriately communicate with transgender employees and manage accommodation situations. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) offers practical information and examples of gender transition guidelines that can be adapted and implemented to promote a transgender-inclusive business. To learn more, see HRC’s Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines. For examples of guidelines implemented by national corporations, see Chevron’s Gender Transition Guidelines and Ernst & Young’s Gender Transition Guidelines.
There are many ways to support transgender workers. The following suggestions will be useful to businesses trying to promote a transgender-inclusive workplace:
- Educate staff about what “transgender” means. A transgender person is someone whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside. This includes people who have medically transitioned to align their internal knowledge of gender with their physical presentation and those who have not medically transitioned (HRC, 2015).
- Train management staff to lead by example by treating transgender workers respectfully and fairly, and by becoming part of the individual’s support team.
- Respect the name a transgender person is using. During the transition process, an individual will often change his or her name to align with their gender identity.
- Use the individual’s preferred pronoun and encourage others to do so. For example, when an individual presents as female, use feminine references like she, her, hers. When a person presents as male, use masculine references like he, him, his. In uncertain cases, use the person’s first name (GLAAD, 2015).
- Talk with the individual about ways to communicate his or her transition to others they must interact with at work – if the employee would like others to be informed. Ask if he or she wishes to inform their manager, co-workers, clients, etc. on their own, or if he or she prefers that this be done by the employer. Learn what information the employee would and would not like to share with others.
- Remove gender-specific rules from a dress code or grooming policy.
- Permit employees to use the restroom facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Employers may also establish single-occupancy gender-neutral (unisex) facilities or allow use of multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued transgender inclusive restroom access guidelines. For more information, go to Best Practices: A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers.
- Allow a flexible schedule and permit the use of leave for medical procedures.
- Discuss if there is a preference to remain in his or her current position or to consider reassignment to another position during transition.
- Update name and gender designations for human resource and administrative records once an employee has officially transitioned. Also, update employment-related photo identification.
- Finally, respect the individual’s privacy and allow him or her the right to be who they are.
National Center for Transgender Equality. (2015). Transgender Terminology. Retrieved June 19, 2015 from http://transequality.org/issues/resources/transgender-terminology
Human Rights Campaign. (2015). Reporting About Transgender People? Read This. HRC’s Brief Guide to Getting It Right. Retrieved July 31, 2015 from http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/reporting-about-transgender-people-read-this
Human Rights Campaign. (2015). Workplace Gender Transition Guidelines. Retrieved July 17, 2015 from http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/workplace-gender-transition-guidelines
GLAAD. (2015). GLAAD’s Tips for Allies of Transgender People. Retrieved July 31, 2015 from http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies