Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — Only In the Winter? Not Always the Case

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 31, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations, Products / Technology | Comments are off for this article

By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

This past November, JAN posted a Blog discussing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is often characterized as “winter blues;” it is a type of depression that is associated with the change in seasons. Individuals with SAD may notice their symptoms of depression begin and end around the same time each year. It is thought that SAD occurs due to changes in our circadian rhythms (biological clock), which are often affected by seasonal changes.

While SAD is most commonly associated with the cold winter months, around 10% of individuals who experience SAD see their symptoms occur during the summer. This phenomenon is often referred to as reverse SAD or summer depression.

SAD in the winter is thought to be a result of shorter days and lack of sunlight. Summer SAD is thought to be the opposite — longer days and too much sunlight. Symptoms of reverse SAD may include loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, and feelings of anxiety.

While some individuals with SAD experience their symptoms during the summer months, there are also other factors that may lead to feelings of depression or sadness. During the summer, there can be a lot of disruptions to our normal routines. With summer comes cookouts, vacations, yard work, and many other things that may cause us to feel busier than usual. All of a sudden we are tied down with planning and scheduling to try and fit everything in. This could lead to feelings of burnout.

Summer also means swimming and time at the beach for some. For those with body image issues, this can be a time of increased anxiety. There is suddenly pressure to feel in a good mood – “hey, the weather’s great – go and enjoy the outdoors.” This “pressure” to feel happy and be active when you’re actually feeling depressed or anxious can for some make matters even worse.

Whether you experience summer depression or not, the warm weather and busy schedules can make it hard to concentrate during the work day, especially for those of us with office jobs. We fight the urge of wanting to go outside instead of being cooped up all day. We may start to find ourselves daydreaming about the evening cookout we are going to attend instead of working on the project due by the end of the week.

If you find yourself experiencing exhaustion, lack of motivation, or difficulty with concentration during the next few months, there may be some techniques you can implement into your day to try to help stay on track. As an example, some of our JAN staff members will take a walk around the nearby neighborhood during their lunch break. This can be a great way to get some fresh air and refocus for the afternoon.

Other ideas that can sometimes help with concentration are getting a cold drink of water to sip on, listening to some background music, downloading an app to help you with time management, or prioritizing tasks. These are just some ideas — there may be a variety of others that could help as well. It’s important to be creative — you know you best.

If you do experience SAD that is triggered in the summer and feel this is affecting your performance at work, you may be able to request some accommodations to help. It’s important to note that impairments related to SAD can be serious for those affected in both private life and in the workplace. JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Mental Health Impairments offers practical accommodation ideas and examples. You can also speak directly with JAN staff for more individualized assistance.

While the summer months can be enjoyable, they can also be hard for some. Whether you experience summer depression or not, make sure you are taking time for self-care. Even though the days are longer, make sure you are still getting an adequate amount of sleep. If too much sun affects you, there are still plenty of activities that can be done indoors or in the shade. If you feel overwhelmed by your schedule, make a priority list to work in some down time for you and your family. Whatever your preference is during the next few months, make wellness and self-care a priority!

Resources:

Tips for Summer Depression
School’s out. It’s hot. And you’re not having any fun

By: R. Morgan Griffin

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD in the Summer
While many get seasonal affective disorder in the winter, 1/10th do over summer

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
By: Mayo Clinic Staff
 

 

Avoiding “The Waiting Place” After Requesting Medical Information

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 13, 2016 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist

In his beloved book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss writes about “The Waiting Place” — an imaginary (or perhaps not) place in life where everyone is waiting for something:

“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No…”

In my experience, it seems that employers sometimes feel stuck in this very place when medical information is requested after an employee makes a request for accommodation, during the early stage of the interactive accommodation process.

Medical information isn’t always needed when an accommodation is requested. But, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when the impairment and need for accommodation are not known or obvious, employers do have the right to request documentation that verifies the existence of an impairment; that the impairment affects a major life activity; and that the impairment is substantially limiting in some way. There is no required procedure for employers to follow, or medical certification form that must be used to obtain medical information for ADA purposes. Also, there is no ADA-required time frame for employees to obtain medical information requested by an employer after a request for accommodation. This, in some situations, leads those engaged in the interactive process to…the waiting place.

There are ways to detour the waiting place. One way is to have a comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy that serves as a step-by-step guide for the interactive process and includes time frames for each step — time frames that apply to both the employer and the individual with the disability. As part of the process, employers often require individuals to complete “ADA paperwork” – employer-created documents used to gather information about the individual’s impairment and need for accommodation. This paperwork often includes a request for medical information to support an individual’s request for accommodation. The ADA does not regulate the amount of time employees may take to respond to a request for medical information, and so, an expected return date is a detail that really should be included in a reasonable accommodation policy or procedure, and also on the ADA paperwork.

How much time should an individual be allowed to return ADA paperwork and/or to provide a note from a healthcare provider? Because there is no required time frame under the ADA, I often suggest that employers use the same time frame that applies under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, employers must allow employees at least fifteen calendar days to obtain the required medical certification (USDOL, 2013). Employees who provide incomplete information should be advised why the certification is incomplete and then allowed a reasonable opportunity to remedy the insufficiency — seven calendar days, for example. Of course, under ADA, the timeframe is up to the employer’s discretion, but this is a sensible place to start and allows time for the individual to meet with his or her healthcare provider. Sometimes, it’s not feasible for the individual to arrange an appointment to see a specialist in this amount of time and exceptions may be necessary. If the employee is making a concerted effort to obtain the required information, take this into consideration.

When there are no time frames, it can be difficult to avoid the waiting place, and this often leads to frustration about how to proceed in the interactive process. So, what can be done to avoid being stuck in the waiting place? Consider the following:

  1. Request that medical information be provided within a reasonable time frame. Provide an actual deadline. For example, fifteen calendar days after the employer’s initial request.
  2. Communicate with the employee shortly before the deadline (e.g., five days) to remind the employee, in writing, that the deadline to provide the requested information is approaching.
  3. If the deadline is not met (even after a reminder), issue a notice that explains that sufficient medical information/completed paperwork was not received and is necessary to proceed with the interactive process. Explain why the information is needed. Consider extending the deadline five more days, or for an appropriate number of days given the specific circumstances (e.g., individual has an appointment with his or her healthcare provider after the specified deadline).
  4. As a practical matter, when the impairment and need for accommodation are known or obvious, consider focusing on gathering detailed information about the requested accommodation, rather than asking for unnecessary medical information. When medical information is necessary, ask specific job-related medical questions about the individual’s limitations, ability to perform job duties, and need for accommodation, to make the process of obtaining information more efficient. Simply sending the employee to a healthcare provider with a job description will not yield the most useful information. Address the specific work-related issues in order to obtain sufficient information in a timely manner.
  5. If an accommodation cannot be provided without the requested medical information, because the disability is not known or obvious, it is possible to close or deny a request for accommodation due to failure to receive the necessary medical information. Notify the employee, in writing, why the request was closed or denied.

If the individual’s accommodation request is closed or denied for failing to provide the information, he or she may submit another request at any time. Under the ADA, an individual with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation at any time during the period of employment because the duty to provide reasonable accommodation is an ongoing one (EEOC, 2002). According to the EEOC, if an individual’s disability and need for reasonable accommodation are not obvious, and he or she refuses to provide the reasonable documentation requested by the employer, then he or she will not be entitled to reasonable accommodation (EEOC, 2002).

For more information about requesting medical information under the ADA, please contact JAN to speak with a Consultant, or go to AskJAN.org and see the A-Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Medical Exams and Inquiries.

References:

U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. (2013). Fact Sheet #28G: Certification of a Serious Health Condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28g.pdf

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2002). Enforcement guidance on reasonable accommodation and undue hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html

New Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act Announced at DMEC Employer Compliance Conference

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 12, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Events, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist

The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) recently held its annual FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being an ADA/FMLA geek, I always enjoy this event and believe it ranks among the top educational opportunities for those involved in absence and disability management. The Compliance Conference offers employers an opportunity to learn about compliance strategies and practical approaches for implementing the myriad of federal and state leave and disability employment laws. Of course, FMLA and ADA take center-stage at this event so many of the speakers are government officials from relevant policy and enforcement agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); labor and employment law attorneys; and leave and disability management experts from across the nation.

I appreciate the format of the Compliance Conference, in that, it kicks-off with general sessions offered the entire first day and the morning of the second day. Why is this a smart educational strategy? Offering general sessions for all participants to attend insures that everyone has the opportunity to be informed about compliance updates together without having to pick and choose which sessions to attend based on interests or professional needs. And, unlike many conferences where general sessions are often rather “fluffy,” the general sessions offered during this year’s conference were robust. Practical information was offered by experts who shared examples of court decisions that illustrate recent compliance developments, top challenges for employers in leave and accommodation administration and tools to support these efforts, industry best practices, ways to avoid lawsuits, and strategies for engaging in the interactive process.

This year, a new FMLA compliance assistance guide was announced during one of the general sessions. Helen Applewhaite, Branch Chief, Branch of FMLA and Other Labor Standards, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. DOL, announced that they have released an Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers have long-awaited a guide of this kind to answer common FMLA questions and clarify responsibilities and protections. This guide offers a road map that begins with an employee’s leave request and guides employers from granting leave to restoring the employee to the same or an equivalent position at the end of the leave period. It addresses many complicated FMLA requirements in a practical manner that includes “Did you know?” tips for compliance.

In addition to the new Employer’s Guide, DOL recently issued a new General Notice FMLA poster. All FMLA-covered employers are required to display a DOL poster summarizing the major provisions of the FMLA. Employers are not required to replace their current poster with the new version, but the new version highlights information regarding employees’ rights and employers’ obligations in a more reader-friendly format.

JAN does not offer detailed technical assistance on the FMLA. However, FMLA and ADA issues often overlap, and so, JAN consultants do address some of the more common FMLA issues and refer customers to DOL and other relevant resources for detailed technical assistance. JAN offers a number of FMLA-related resources on our Website, in our A-Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Family and Medical Leave Act, including the new Employer’s Guide and also DOL’s Employee’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

 

Accommodating Cooks with Low Vision

Posted by Kim Cordingly on May 6, 2016 under Accommodations, Employers, Products / Technology, Vendors | Comments are off for this article

By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant – Sensory Team

Cooking and eating together are powerful ways of building relationships and creating a sense of community at work. Whether you are seeking to include an employee in cooking activities, or accommodating a food service employee with a vision impairment, there are many ways to make a kitchen more accessible to employees with vision impairments.

Some typical suggestions for accommodating cooks with low vision include the following:

  • Use measuring tools with large print, color coding or tactile marking, or modify existing measuring cups and spoons with customized markings.
  • Use knife guards or specialized tools such as vegetable peelers for cutting and peeling.
  • Use guards, cut proof gloves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as needed when handling or cleaning sharp objects.
  • Use measuring tools and cutting boards that contrast with the substance being measured or cut.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to measure cookie dough and place on a baking sheet.
  • Use parchment paper when baking to prevent sticking and simplify cleaning.
  • Use color coded prep bowls to keep track of ingredients that have been measured out.
  • Use liquid level indicators when pouring hot liquids.
  • Use talking thermometers and timers.
  • Use oven mitts when handling pots and pans.
  • Use extra-long oven mitts, oven rack grabbers, and oven rack guards for oven tasks.
  • Use magnifiers, bar code readers, or Optical Character Reading (OCR) technology to access information on labels.
  • Avoid placing pots, pans, and bowls directly on slippery or slick surfaces.
  • Use pot stabilizers for safer pouring and ladling.
  • Use boil control discs to prevent boil overs.
  • Make a plan for how to effectively clean and sanitize cooking area, dishes and utensils.
  • Use a talking calculator when modifying, halving, or multiplying a recipe.
  • Consider induction cooktops for increased safety when practical.
  • Modify lighting according to need. Some individuals need more lighting or task lighting, other may need lower light levels, filtering of light sources, or an alternate type of light source.
  • Use dial type controls, which may be easier to modify/memorize.
  • Use tactile marking or color coding to mark important buttons.
  • Try magnification or hand held OCR to better access digital displays.
  • Use a talking oven thermometer to verify oven temperature.
  • Digitize inventory and temperature logs as needed for improved accessibility.
  • Use fluorescent tape to mark routes of travel and tips of stairs.
  • Seek customized recommendations and individualized assistive technology (AT), occupational therapy (OT), or vision rehabilitation therapy (VRT) assessments when appropriate.

Visit the JAN Website for more information on low vison cooking aids.

The American Foundation for the Blind offers information on modified tools and methods for safe cooking for individuals with low or no vision.

Many tools that may be useful to a cook, chef, or baker with low vision can be found at vendors of standard and commercial kitchen supplies. There are however some vendors with specialized products for individuals with low vision that include kitchen aids. Examples of these types of low vision aids for cooking tasks can be found here, here, and here.

You can link here to information on talking thermometers.

JAN’s Website includes information on talking bar code scanners and talking scales.

For highly specialized cooking and baking tasks, scientific instruments designed for use by individuals who are blind may be helpful.

If you would like to discuss specific accommodation situations in more detail, we invite you to contact JAN directly.