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ENews: Volume 10, Issue 1, First Quarter, 2012

The JAN E-News is a quarterly online newsletter of the Job Accommodation Network. Its purpose is to keep subscribers informed about low-cost and innovative accommodation approaches; the latest trends in assistive technologies; announcements of upcoming JAN presentations, media events, trainings, and Webcasts; and legislative and policy updates promoting the employment success of people with disabilities.

An e-mail announcement is sent to an opt-in list when a new issue is available. Please use the links at the end of this document to subscribe or unsubscribe.


  1. Return to Work: A Snapshot
  2. When the Party's Over . . .
  3. Many Stand While Working
  4. When the Holiday Letdown Hits
  5. Making Your Sleigh Ergonomic
  6. Scents of the Seasons: Holiday Smells and Workplace Issues
  7. February is Heart Month
  8. 2012 New Year Beginnings: Just-In-Time Training Module Series and Effective Accommodation Practices Series (EAPS)
  9. JAN Releases New Resources
  10. E-vents
  11. JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule
  12. Subscribe to JAN Newsletter
AskJAN 2012 Tophat

January marks the beginning of a New Year and the promise of a fresh start. But sometimes it is hard to let go of the holiday baggage we accumulated at the end of the year. Many of the articles in this quarter's ENews discuss some of the problems the holidays can create in the workplace and practical solutions to overcome these problems. We hope you find these articles helpful. Happy New Year!

1 - Return to Work: A Snapshot (Part 2 of a Continuing Series, Read Part 1)

As more than 80% of inquiries to JAN involve retention of a current employee, the importance of contributing technical assistance to stay at work and return to work programs is vital. Both practices ensure valued employees are retained, productivity is maintained, and recruiting and on-boarding costs are saved. This is the second article in a series about these important practices in the workplace. The following article results from a collaboration between JAN and Return to Work Matters (RTW Matters). RTW Matters is a practical online resource for employers and disability professionals. Look for the Join Now link on the left hand side of the RTW Matters homepage.

He Ain't Heavy...He's My Employee

In the spring of the year in 2008, on a cold and dreary day, a freezing rain fell to coat everything it touched. Dan had just parked the CDL class truck and was stepping down to move on to his next task. What Dan didn't know was that the next task would be a trip to the emergency room. When exiting the truck, Dan fell down and landed on his knee, causing a tear that eventually lead to a surgical repair. Two months later, Dan was told he could go back to work, but would have some temporary restrictions. Although his employer didn't have anything he could do within his physical capacity, they would try and "come up with something." For the next seven months, Dan remained at home and collected compensation pay at two-thirds his salary.

Although he made use of the time by attending physical therapy and follow-up doctor appointments, Dan was getting bored and a little worried about whether he would ever return to his job. Dan missed the gang at work and would frequently stop by for a chat and any news on possible light duty assignments. Finally, an opportunity came up for Dan to return to work, and even though it was limited to four hours a day of snow plowing, he happily accepted. Eventually, Dan was released to full duty and returned to his heavy equipment mechanic position, but to everyone's dismay, Dan's knee started to give him problems within just a few weeks. When the MRI showed another tear, a second surgical repair was performed and once again, Dan was out of a job.

In desperation, Dan scheduled an appointment to talk with the company's return to work coordinator, who immediately contacted the ergonomic specialist to schedule a meeting for the two of them to meet with Dan and his supervisor to form a return to work strategy. A job analysis was completed, which determined that the physical ability to kneel and squat were essential to performing the heavy equipment job. Unfortunately, these were the very same physical demands that Dan was restricted from doing on what was now a permanent basis. This could have been the end of the story except that the people involved were a bunch of very determined and creative folks.

An ergonomic evaluation of the work area was completed and another meeting was held to discuss a plan. The only thing keeping Dan from returning to his job was his inability to maneuver and work on the equipment. So, was there another way of maneuvering? Well, research would need to be done and budgets would need to be considered. Dan was told that they would let him know when they had some answers. During what Dan would say were some of the longest days of his life, he stayed home, earned less money and worried about his future.

Then came the day when Dan got the call, asking for him to come in to work for a meeting. The news was good. A hydraulic lift had been indentified that could be used to lift the work product to waist height. This allowed Dan to avoid the kneeling, squatting, and heavy lifting he was restricted from doing, while still allowing him to perform all the duties of his heavy equipment mechanic job. This job modification not only returned Dan to his full time job, it came with an additional benefit; the ability for other workers to use the lift, thereby preventing additional work injuries.

From the efforts of Dan and his supervisor, the ergonomic specialist and return to work coordinator, long term disability was prevented. This not only saved the employer money and a loss of production time by bringing on a new employee, it made them feel good that they had a part in doing the right thing by a valued employee. The other employees recognized the efforts of their employer, which instilled confidence that if they ever met with similar circumstances, they would be taken care of. For Dan, the benefits were huge. He could now go back to being a productive member of society and earn the money he was previously earning. For the community, the benefits were limitless: the return of a member to gainful employment and the prevention of unemployment side effects such as anxiety and depression, that affect the individual and family members. This case had many factors that led to its success, but most important was the great team collaboration, established partnerships, and good communication between the employee, supervisor, RTW coordinator, and all the other team players involved in the case.

The cost of the hydraulic lift? $2,667. The return of a valued employee? Priceless.

For more on lifting devices, the costs and benefits of job accommodation, and effective accommodation practices, contact JAN.

- Article by: Mary Harris & Shelly Frohrip, Contributors, Return to Work Matters.

Mary Harris, MS, CRC, is the CEO and founder of the vocational rehabilitation consulting firm, Ability Advisors, Inc. specializing in return to work coordination. In January 2010, Mary joined forces with an international leader in the return to work movement Return to Work Matters.org out of Australia. The U.S. based Return to Work Matters.com, was launched in May 2010 and is led by Ms. Harris as the Duluth, MN based publisher.

Ms. Shelly Frohrip, MS, CRC, has over 10 years of work experience in return to work. Her experience includes working with the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, as well as with industrially injured individuals in the Workers’ Compensation system.  Currently, Ms. Frohrip plans and coordinates return to work for faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 

- Introduction by: Lou Orslene, JAN Co-Director

Job Accommodation Network. (2011). Effective accommodation practices (EAP) series - Job accommodations for return-to-work. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://AskJAN.org/media/eaps/rtwEAP.doc

2 - When the Party's Over . . .

Ah, the holidays, the time of year when you can forget all your problems and responsibilities and just enjoy the shopping, decorations, and parties. But for people with alcoholism, the holidays can be a very different experience, one fraught with exposure to alcohol, stress, and the potential for relapse. Unfortunately, some people are unable to escape the temptation to drink and start the New Year with an alcohol problem. To make matters worse, they may not seek treatment right away, but instead try to return to a normal routine, including returning to work. While there are some legal protections for employees with alcoholism under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are limitations for employees who are currently using alcohol. Under the ADA, employees can lose ADA protection if the use of alcohol negatively affects their job performance or they violate conduct rules related to the use of alcohol. Here are a few examples:

Example A: An employer has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who comes to work under the influence of alcohol or who uses alcohol at work. The punishment for violating the policy is automatic termination. An employee with alcoholism relapsed over the holidays and came back to work one day after lunch smelling of alcohol. When confronted, he confessed that he had several drinks at lunch, but asked for a second chance because he has alcoholism. His employer can enforce the policy and does not have to give him a second chance under the ADA – he violated a conduct rule related to the use of alcohol at work.

Example B: During the holidays, a person with alcoholism relapses and gets a DUI when she drives home from a party legally drunk. Her driver's license is suspended for six months as a result of the DUI. Part of her job requires her to drive a company van to pick up supplies. She asks to be excused from performing this duty temporarily until she gets her license back. Because the work-related problem is the result of the employee's use of alcohol, the employer does not have a duty to consider the accommodation under the ADA – her use of alcohol negatively affected her job performance.

Example C: Before returning to work after the holidays, an employee with alcoholism realizes that she needs to get help for a relapse. She starts going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and asks her employer to allow her to make brief personal calls to her sponsor during work hours if needed. In this case, the employee did not violate her employer's conduct rules and her use of alcohol did not negatively affect her job performance so her employer must consider her accommodation request.

As you can see, a relapse over the holidays may not only affect the personal lives of people with alcoholism, but also can have negative consequences on their employment. So next year, when you are planning your holiday activities, remember your friends and family who may be struggling to maintain sobriety and plan accordingly.

Job Accommodation Network. (2011). Accommodation and compliance series - Employees with alcoholism. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://AskJAN.org/media/alcohol.html

- Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Pincipal Consultant

3 - Many Stand While Working (Part 1 of a Continuing Series)

Many jobs require prolonged standing while working, especially during the holiday and post-holiday season. Cashiers, machine operators, assemblers, and sales representatives often must stand in order to perform the job essentials. There are numerous complaints associated with standing, including, foot pain; leg/foot swelling; varicose veins; fatigue; and pain in the back, neck, and shoulders.

There are some basic safety and ergonomic principles that can alleviate some health hazards associated with standing for long periods:


There are various products that can be used when workers must stand to do a job or to do other work activities while upright:

The Job Accommodation Network does not sell devices, but we do make information available as to manufacturers and distributors of the devices mentioned above. For more information regarding product information, prices, specifications, and vendors, visit JAN's SOAR at:

- Eddie Whidden, M.A., Senior Consultant, Motor Team

4 - When the Holiday Letdown Hits

Now that the holidays are over, many people who were stressed-out during the holidays might be looking at a sort of "let down" period. Many of us have brought stress and anxiety into our lives by having overextended ourselves. We may have overindulged, not only in eating and drinking during the festivities, but also in shopping and spending too much money, as well as staying up later at night and getting less sleep and rest. Family closeness during this time of year may have brought on many stressful situations.

Many of us are looking to reduce the stress and anxiety in our lives that is brought on by the challenges of life itself, and is present on a daily basis, not just by the whirlwind of holiday activities. Transitional anxiety, or concerns caused by events that take place in our lives either planned or unplanned, can also cause stress. A move, a wedding, a new job, or training a new puppy can all be events that cause us stress until we can adjust to the changes.

There is also anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and often overwhelming. An excessive, ongoing anxiety of everyday situations can be disabling. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, an anxiety disorder may be to blame. Whether you have everyday stress and anxiety, transitional stress, or an anxiety disorder, you can learn strategies to help you manage your anxiety. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) gives us good advice on what we can do to relieve stress.

Just like the causes of stress differ among individuals, what relieves stress will also differ. In general, however, making certain lifestyle changes in addition to finding healthy, enjoyable ways to cope with stress helps most people. For example:

The above suggestions for lifestyle changes may just look like a list of New Year's resolutions. You can do it! Resolve to make 2012 a healthier year by reducing (to the extent that you can control) the amount of stress and anxiety in your life. If an anxiety disorder is the cause of the stress and anxiety that creates difficult employment issues, use the resources JAN offers for assistance.

Job Accommodation Network. (2011). Effective accommodation practices (EAP) series - Job accommodations for people with anxiety. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://AskJAN.org/media/eaps/employmentanxietyEAP.doc

- Melanie Whetzel, M.A., Senior Consultant, Cognitive / Neurological Team

5 - Making Your Sleigh Ergonomic

Many of us spent a great deal of time in a vehicle during the holiday season, often with significant work-related driving duties. Even outside of the busy November and December travel months, a high percentage of individuals spend time in vehicles for their jobs. Driving a car; van; bus; sport utility vehicle; or light, medium, or heavy truck is an everyday occurrence that involves a great deal of our time and can sometimes be an ergonomic nightmare. We now consider ergonomics for many jobs, including manufacturing, services, healthcare, and office settings. Often overlooked is ergonomics for the vehicle.

When we consider ergonomics in general, we look at fitting a task to an individual. The same questions we need to answer for an office ergonomic evaluation can also be asked when looking at ergonomics for vehicle use. Let's remember five important ergonomic questions to help prioritize easy changes to our vehicles:

Administrative controls should also be considered when looking at good ergonomics for driving. Individuals should be properly trained in ergonomic principles, such as proper lifting techniques, adequate maintenance and correct equipment use, and neutral postures. Rest breaks should be built into the workday to include simple, brief exercises such as shoulder shrugs, neck rolls, ankle rotations, leg extensions, overhead stretches, and finger spreads. Altering positions every 45 minutes can also increase the comfort of a driver.

Although sometimes difficult when driving for long periods, using good ergonomic principles can make you more comfortable when commuting, completing work tasks, or even making a trip in your holiday sleigh. If you are looking for equipment to make your sleigh more ergonomic, contact JAN.

- Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant

6 - Scents of the Seasons: Holiday Smells and Workplace Issues

Oh, the joy of the holidays. Months of celebrating with those closest to us, eating more food than we should, and exchanging gifts with everyone we know. With the season winding down and Valentine's Day approaching, there has been plenty of time to show off new sweaters and sparkly jewelry to our coworkers and to decorate the office with red hearts and cupid cut-outs. But what about those gifts that could accompany us to work? No, not the extra couple of pounds from too many cookies-the gifts that are intended to make us smell more appealing and make our surroundings smell like the holidays!

Many of us may have received perfume, cologne, or scented body lotion as gifts or have purchased candles, potpourri, or air fresheners that smell like all of the traditional holiday scents. From the cinnamon, peppermint, and evergreen scents of the winter holidays to the floral, vanilla, and pheromone emitting scents of Valentine's Day, November to February is a period that is marked by a wide variety of smells that we are not normally exposed to any other time of the year. Although these scents can trigger nostalgic memories of holidays past, exposure to scents in the workplace can be overwhelming and problematic for those who experience sensitivities to fragrances.

Fragrance sensitivity can be an irritation or an allergic reaction to any product that contains fragrance. While some may enjoy the rose petal potpourri in the employee break room, those with fragrance sensitivities may experience headaches; nausea; watery, burning, and itchy red eyes; or skin irritations when exposed to these types of products. Some may even experience breathing difficulties or worsening of asthma symptoms.

For someone who experiences sensitivity to fragrances, working in environments where fragrances are used can be difficult. Accommodations can be provided, including fragrance-free workplace policies, to enable those with sensitivities to perform their jobs. Prohibiting the use of scented items in the workplace can not only benefit those employees in the workplace with sensitivities or allergies, but also customers or members of the public that may have similar limitations.

So, before bringing the winter wonderland scented air freshener to work or spraying on new cologne to impress the girl in the next cubicle, remember that some individuals may not be able to work in an environment that smells like the perfume counter at the local mall. Scents of the season can be enjoyed outside of the workplace to help ensure that those with fragrance sensitivities are not exposed to products that may impact their ability to perform their jobs.

Job Accommodation Network. (2011). Accommodation and compliance series - Employees with fragrance sensitivity. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://AskJAN.org/media/fragrance.html

- Elisabeth Simpson, MS, Senior Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

7 - February is Heart Month

In recognition of February as American Heart Month, JAN would like to take this opportunity to discuss heart conditions and accommodations in the workplace for individuals with heart conditions. According to the American Heart Association's updated statistics on heart disease, over 16 million Americans over the age of 20 have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, probably the most well-known of heart conditions, and over seven million have experienced at least one myocardial infarction (also known as heart attacks) (American Heart Association, 2011). In addition, the number one killer of women in America is heart disease.

Go Red for Women: Love Your Heart - American Heart Association

Many of the questions JAN receives in regards to heart disease involve an employee with a weight limit in lifting, pushing, and/or pulling. Perhaps the first thing an employer might want to look at, in a situation like this, is job restructuring as a reasonable accommodation. Job restructuring involves the reallocation of marginal job duties that the employee is having trouble with so that the employee can focus on the duties and tasks that he is able to do. In addition, in job restructuring you can assign new marginal functions that the employee is able to perform. An employer never has to remove an essential function of a job as an accommodation under the ADA. For more information about job restructuring as an accommodation review JAN's Employers' Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship.

So perhaps you might have an individual who has developed a heart condition and has a lifting restriction of 15 pounds when the individual's job requires him to lift 40 pounds. With job restructuring the employer might consider allowing team lifting or if possible excuse the employee from the duties that require lifting over 15 pounds while assigning new duties that he is able to do, potentially reallocating some duties from the employees who are helping out with the extra lifting. If lifting, pushing, and/or pulling are essential functions, the employer may want to consider other accommodation ideas.

There are many options for accommodating lifting, pushing, and pulling with assistive technology. For example, compact material handling devices may be effective for accommodating an employee with heart disease who must lift and handle materials as a part of the job. Compact material handling devices are designed to assist the employee in lifting and transporting material in tight spaces. You can find out more about compact material handling devices on JAN's SOAR.

For employees who must lift and transport people and patients as a part of their job, the employer may want to consider providing patient lifts and transfer devices as an accommodation. For pushing and pulling, there are a variety of motorized carts and power assist devices that can be used in different settings. Some carts are more appropriate for industrial work, others may be in medical and hospitality settings. You can find out more about patient lifts, transfer aids, and motorized carts on JAN's SOAR as well.

As always each individual's needs for accommodation will vary based on what type of heart condition the employee has, what symptoms the employee is experiencing, what the employee's functional limitations are, and the job tasks for which the employee is responsible. Good places to start in determining effective accommodations are in a conversation with the employee, reviewing the employee's limitations and essential job functions, and of course contacting JAN. For more information on accommodations for individuals with heart conditions, download JAN's Accommodation and Compliance Series: Heart Conditions.


- Burr Corley, MSW, Consultant, Motor Team

8 - 2012 New Year Beginnings: Just-In-Time Training Module Series and Effective Accommodation Practices Series (EAPS)

JAN's Just-In-Time Training Module Series: JAN announces the first in a series of fully-accessible training modules. The first just-in-time module features "JAN's Interactive Process." With the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, employers have moved past the definition of disability and on to providing accommodations. The key to successful accommodations is having an effective interactive accommodation process. This 23 minute training module and accompanying transcript and handout provides a sample step-by-step process that employers can use in their own workplaces to help them successfully accommodate applicants or employees. This module can be used to train new accommodation specialists, disability managers, and others responsible for initiating and maneuvering through the accommodation landscape. Trainees can view the module at their computer or use the module as part of a larger training. Watch for the next just-in-time "ADA Amendments Act" Module coming soon! The Module and supporting documents can be found in JAN's Multimedia Training Library.

JAN's EAPS (\'ēps\):

JAN's Consultants manage more than 40,000 inquiries per year and have managed more than 600,000 inquiries since the program's inception in 1983. These consultations are stored in JAN's information system. In addition, JAN contracts with a third party vendor to survey customers in two major areas including the cost and benefit of accommodation and satisfaction with JAN's services. JAN's consultations along with its customer surveys result in a library of effective accommodation practices.

This library of evidenced based effective practices serve multiple uses with JAN's services and products including examples provided within JAN presentations and workshops, the Accommodation and Compliance publication series, the Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR), and articles in JAN's ENews and Consultants' Corners.

One of the newest uses of JAN's vast library of effective practices is the Effective Accommodation Practices (EAP) Series. These publications are designed to provide readers with a quick overview of the limitations associated with specific medical conditions and accommodation ideas for those limitations.This new series of publications can be found in a comprehensive list on JAN's Website. Look for new additions to JAN's library such as Effective Accommodation Practices: Job Accommodations for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

With so many tasks competing for your valuable time, we hope you find the JAN's EAPS valuable.

9 - JAN Releases New Resources

10 - E-vents

11 - JAN Exhibit and Training Schedule

Events of particular interest: Get the most up-to-date and comprehensive training on employing people with disabilities. To view the complete JAN travel schedule go here: http://AskJAN.org/training/On-the-Road.htm

12 - Subscribe to JAN Newsletter

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This document was developed by the Job Accommodation Network, funded by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (DOL079RP20426). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. Nor does mention of tradenames, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor.


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