In our last Nuts-and-Bolts post, we discussed the proposed rules that the EEOC recently published that pertain to the application of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) to wellness programs that employers offer their employees.

It is important that employers and managers stay abreast of the constantly changing and evolving rules and regulations that apply to leave management and administration to ensure compliance. A very important aspect of leave administration is what you as an employer are permitted to say, and more importantly, what you are not permitted to say when dealing with a disability-related leave of absence. 

First and foremost, supervisors must refrain from asking the employee specifics about their disability or illness. Even genuine, good intentions in which you are simply trying to be compassionate can backfire. When dealing with documentation, scheduling, and other aspects of a disability leave, always focus on job duties and performance standards versus the disability or illness itself.

Employers are not required to ask if an employee needs an accommodation for their disability; rather, the employee needs to initiate the accommodation process in some way, whether that be informal or formal, verbal or written. Once the employee starts this process, document everything and have the employee fill out a request for accommodation form. Under absolutely no circumstances should the request be ignored.

When evaluating the employee’s request, discuss with them how the accommodation will help or hinder job performance and duties. If the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the organization, consider alternate accommodations that would be mutually beneficial.

If you’re unsure as to what regulations and laws should be followed, which processes should be implemented, and what the standard procedures for ADA and leave management are, a professional, in-depth audit of your leave management system to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations may be necessary.

ADA and leave management doesn’t have to be overly frustrating to administer. Educate yourself on the rules and regulations that apply to your Bank, and familiarize yourself with leave processes and procedures. Make certain that there are no factors that may prove to be a potential violation of the ADA or other applicable leave laws.