October is ADHD Awareness Month

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 12, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers, Events, Uncategorized | Comments are off for this article

Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team

ADHD Awareness Month is celebrated annually to help improve the lives of those living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The theme for 2017, Knowing Better: ADHD Across the Life Span, highlights how individuals are affected at all stages of their lives. Focusing on the life span means being aware of the effects of ADHD at different times of life. It’s better for parents to know that ADHD might be part of the picture so they can seek out the help their child might need. It’s better for young adults to know so they might arrange for appropriate accommodations in school or the workplace. Lastly, it’s better for adults at any stage to recognize their ADHD so they can take proactive steps in their life and won’t be faced with underachievement and frustration.

ADHD is defined as, “a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting both children and adults. It is described as a ‘persistent’ or on-going pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development. Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function (or the brain’s ability to begin an activity, organize itself and manage tasks) and working memory.”

Over 17 million Americans are affected by ADHD. At JAN, we consult daily with numerous people in a variety of situations to help employees with ADHD become more successful and productive in the workplace. We can help answer questions and guide individuals through the accommodation process that often begins with the application and interview stages, and may continue throughout the employment cycle.

Here are a few sample situations and solutions:

Situation: Stephen is a job applicant with questions about accommodations that might be needed while taking an employment test.

Solution: We spoke to him about what is required in a disclosure when requesting accommodations. Stephen wanted to request a private room in which to take a test instead of with multiple other applicants in a larger, more distracting room.

Situation: Tony is an attorney who contacted JAN for assistance with accommodations that could be put into place to help him with organization, prioritization, and task completion. He wasn’t sure what to ask for, or how.

Solution: As we walked Tony through the accommodation process, we got more details about the tasks he had the most difficulty with. Between Tony and the consultant, many practical accommodation ideas were formulated. Obtaining a mentor to help with prioritizing; color-coding daily, weekly, and monthly calendars; and working on more difficult tasks when he has the most mental acuity were just a few of the ideas he felt could work for him.

Situation: Hector is an employee who just disclosed his disability to his supervisor after a written warning, and is asking how best to show his supervisor that ADHD is real.

Solution: A JAN employment specialist explained the need for medical documentation not only to verify his medical condition, but also to substantiate the need for the accommodations he would be requesting.

Situation: Suzette is a reporter with the skills to do a phenomenal job, but struggles with distractions in the midst of a crowded, busy, and noisy newsroom. Her employer contacted JAN with concerns after Suzette asked to work from home when faced with strict deadlines.

Solution: Suzette’s employer was concerned about her isolation from her co-workers as well as from the downtown area where most of the news occurred. A trial accommodation of telework was discussed. The employer felt it was worth trying, contingent upon Suzette’s ability to get to the scene of breaking news quickly.

See JAN publications on ADHD and Executive Functioning for further accommodation ideas. Contact us directly for one-on-one assistance.

Additional Resources:

National Institute of Mental Health – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder Association – ADHD: The Facts

Workplace Supports for Employees with Breast Cancer

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 10, 2017 under Accommodations, Employers, Organizations | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant, ADA Specialist – Survivor

It’s October again. For many people, October is a time for pumpkin spice everything, watching football, feeling the warmth of a cozy sweatshirt, and enjoying the colors of fall as the leaves change to red, orange, and yellow. These are the traditional colors of fall, but pink is another color we see a lot of this time of year – because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This time each year, my thoughts lead to personal reflection because five years ago, in October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. As you might expect, the news was not anticipated. I was immediately faced with making decisions about surgery and treatment, and also, understanding what, if any, impact the diagnosis might have on my future.

One worry I did not have at that time, was how my employer would react to the news of my diagnosis. Being part of the JAN family, there is comfort in knowing that my employer values what I bring to the table and is willing to support me to be successful at work, and in life. Unfortunately, many people who face a breast cancer diagnosis are not so fortunate – their thoughts quickly turn to wondering if they will be able to continue working, if they can take time off for treatment, and if their employer will look for a way to let them go simply because they have cancer. Amidst the worry of survival, one should not also have to worry about livelihood, but this is a reality for many.

According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States; this includes people still being treated and those who have completed treatment. Many survivors find that continuing to work through cancer treatment aids in their recovery. Based on my personal experience, I agree with this notion. Ability to work during treatment can be influenced by the type of treatment received (e.g., chemo, radiation, etc.), the stage of cancer, the individual’s overall wellbeing, and the kind of work the individual does. The availability and effectiveness of workplace supports, also known as job accommodations, can also significantly impact a survivor’s ability to continue working. Being supported in the workplace makes it easier to remember who you are, apart from the cancer. It allows you to continue contributing at work and get on with living.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that are needed because of limitations caused by cancer, the side effects of medication or treatment for cancer, or both. The objective in providing accommodations is to make adjustments that enable an employee to perform essential job duties, or access benefits and privileges of employment. Accommodations that are commonly requested by employees with breast cancer, such as a modified/flexible schedule, ergonomic equipment, and telework, are also workplace supports that many employers make available to all employees, for reasons that are unrelated to disability – often to achieve a healthy balance between managing life and work. These adjustments not only benefit employees with cancer, but benefit employers as well, by increasing employee presence and leading to less worry about when and how work will be completed.

In my own experience, I took a couple days of leave for surgery and was able to schedule all cancer treatments to occur before my work day started, but my employer allowed me the flexibility to modify my schedule, if needed. Remember though, each individual’s accommodation needs will be different and will sometimes depend on access to treatment and the effects of treatment. I had access to medical care where I lived and worked, which made it easier for me to seek treatment outside of my work schedule. Not everyone is this fortunate. Some employees may need to flex their arrival/departure time to receive treatment, make-up time missed, schedule longer days to work a shortened work week, telework while recovering, or use accrued or unpaid leave in order to travel to receive treatment. These and other types of adjustments can positively impact health outcomes by freeing individuals from the worry of choosing when and how to obtain treatment in order to stay employed.

Local and systemic breast cancer treatments can cause short and long-term side effects that can impact performance of job duties, for some people, but not all. These effects can include: nausea and vomiting; fatigue and weakness; loss of appetite; skin irritations; loss of hair; lymphedema; pain and numbness; temperature sensitivity; diarrhea; and difficulty with memory and concentration (e.g., “chemo brain”). Many of these limitations can easily be accommodated in the workplace. Accommodations for employees with breast cancer range widely, but some examples include:

  • Working a flexible/modified schedule or making-up time missed for treatment, appointments, etc.
  • Working a reduced/part-time schedule or changing a shift
  • Using accrued paid leave, or unpaid leave under the ADA and/or federal and state leave laws, and modifying an attendance policy to allow disability-related absences
  • Parking closer to the work-site
  • Working from home, as-needed, or on a regular basis
  • Modifying a dress code to allow wearing a scarf, hat, unrestrictive clothing
  • Reducing visual and auditory distractions
  • Taking breaks for mental and physical fatigue
  • Restructuring a job so the most difficult tasks are performed at the time of day the employee has the most mental and/or physical energy or stamina
  • Designating uninterrupted time for tasks that require significant concentration
  • Using ergonomic equipment to accommodate tightness or pain in the upper region of the body
  • Modifying work-site temperature

Researchers continue to search for ways to prevent, treat, and cure breast cancer. We’re reminded every October of the ongoing race to save lives. With employer support, open communication about performance expectations and accommodations, and good planning, employees with breast cancer can be better equipped for survival and success at work and in life. JAN can support employers and survivors in this effort by offering ADA technical assistance and accommodation guidance. For general information about cancer, accommodations, and the ADA, see JAN’s website for Accommodation Ideas for Cancer, or contact us for individualized consultation.

Additional Resources:

American Cancer Society – Breast Cancer

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health – Breast Cancer

All Disabilities Matter in an Inclusive Workplace

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

By: Benjamin Levi, Employment Specialist

I have recently started working in the disability field assisting individuals with diverse limitations who are trying to acquire workplace accommodations. In the few short months I’ve been working in this field, I have come to realize that people often make assumptions about a person’s disability — some minimizing the effects and some overestimating the severity. Either way, making assumptions about someone’s disability can have a negative impact in the workplace. It can make an employee feel like he or she is not part of the team or not respected as an individual. It can also interfere with providing effective accommodations because these are based on an employee’s actual limitations, not assumptions. Why does this happen? It may be a lack of knowledge, experience, or that an employer is worried about the bottom line despite low cost of accommodation data. Instead of providing the minimum accommodation needed, if an employer focuses on the tools an employee actually needs to be successful, this leads to better productivity outcomes for both the employer and employee.

How can employers overcome this tendency to make assumptions about employees with disabilities? Listen to the individual. Provide disability awareness training for both employees and supervisors in some capacity so that everyone will be more aware of the range of conditions employees may experience in the workplace. Every employee with a disability is unique and should be treated that way. JAN provides resources on disability awareness that can be used for training purposes, or you can contact us directly for more specific resources.

Employees should feel a sense of relief, not anxiety, when engaging with their employer in an interactive process to determine effective and reasonable accommodations. The JAN publication The Interactive Process – JAN’s Effective Accommodation Practices Series provides step-by-step guidance so that employers and employees together can identify accommodations that will be successful and contribute to an inclusive workplace community.

All employees and supervisors share the responsibility in creating an inclusive work environment. Whether it is the employee’s first day on the job, or an extended tenure, there is always a way to become more aware. The JAN Workplace Accommodation Toolkit provides many resources to assist in developing a disability-inclusive and compliant workplace.

Inclusion can provide a healthy workplace environment for all employees and contribute to the success of any organization. More awareness and fewer assumptions can make a huge difference. If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, please feel free to reach out to us!

 

 

Maximum Leave Policies and the ADA

Posted by Kim Cordingly on October 6, 2017 under Accommodations, ADAAA, Employers | Comments are off for this article

By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant – ADA Specialist

Leave-related accommodation issues are among the most complex and challenging under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA leave can be administered in various ways, and in conjunction with employer leave policies and benefit programs, and federal and state leave laws. Deciphering and administering the requirements of federal and state leave laws can perplex even the most astute leave management specialist. Employers should be aware of the interplay between their own policies and state and federal leave laws when exploring leave as an accommodation under the ADA.

While the murkiness of applying leave benefits and entitlements can leave one clambering for clarity, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made one point quite clear in the ADA-land of leave as an accommodation; when reasonable, employers can be expected to make an exception to a maximum leave policy to grant extended leave as an accommodation under the ADA. What is a maximum leave policy? This is a workplace policy that limits the amount of leave employees can take, regardless of the reason for the need for leave, culminating in termination when employees cannot return to work before the leave period ends.

Maximum leave policies often cap the number of weeks allowed at 12, consistent with the amount of time permitted under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or can require caps that are either lower or much higher than 12 weeks (e.g., even one year or more). While these policies are permissible in general, the ADA requires employers to consider extending leave beyond the maximum leave allowed by policy when additional leave is needed due to a disability-related reason. When employers do not engage in the interactive process and make exceptions to policies (when reasonable), they are sometimes met with a discrimination claim from EEOC. Multiple employers have been forced to defend their maximum or inflexible leave policies, including Blood Bank of Hawaii, UPS, Dillard’s Dept. Stores, Interstate Distributor Co., and Sears Roebuck. One of the most notable settlements was with Lowes in 2016.

I know what you’re thinking — how does not being at work for six months enable an employee to do their job? This doesn’t make sense. The objective in providing leave as a reasonable accommodation is to allow a qualified employee with a disability the job-protected time that is needed to manage their medical impairment in order to return to the workforce, whether that be within three weeks, six months, or twelve. Sometimes, more leave is required than initially anticipated (e.g., usually due to unforeseen complications) and this can lead to a request to extend leave beyond the maximum leave period allowed by employer policy. When the need for extended leave becomes apparent, an interactive process is necessary under the ADA to determine – on a case-by-case basis – if it is possible to make an exception to the policy and extend leave.

There is no pre-determined duration of leave time that is required to be granted as an accommodation under the ADA. Nothing within the ADA or EEOC enforcement guidance dictates how much additional leave is required to be granted. However, employers must be clear in knowing they cannot simply rest on the requirements of their maximum leave policy to robotically deny leave when the ADA applies. Employers do have the discretion to decide how much leave is reasonable and should assess this by applying an undue hardship analysis.

How can undue hardship be established in leave-related situations? JAN cannot indicate when undue hardship is apparent, but we can offer a practical tip: accurately and objectively document the impact of the employee’s absence on business operations and leave emotions and feelings out of the analysis. It’s one thing to say that employee morale is low because Kenny hasn’t been to work in 12 weeks, but employee morale doesn’t factor in when assessing undue hardship. On the other hand, if Eric, Kyle, and Maria each have to repeatedly work ten hours or more of overtime each week that Kenny is absent in order to meet the production demands of the business, then this is a fact that will result in a multifaceted impact that can be taken into consideration. Document the facts, not the feelings. The objective is to adequately capture factual information to objectively analyze undue hardship, not to use the information to penalize the employee who is using leave.

Detailed information about maximum leave policies, leave as an ADA accommodation, and assessing undue hardship can be found in the EEOC publication, Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC has also issued a number of other documents that discuss how the ADA addresses various leave and attendance issues, including their enforcement guidance documents on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the ADA and Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities.