As usual with such legislation, the burden on employers will ultimately be adjudicated in the courts, with little specificity as to direction an employer should take.
Here’s an exerpt from a recent article by Jackson Lewis: With the ADAAA going into effect on January 1, 2009, now is the time for employers to review existing procedures for ADA compliance at every stage, including hiring, medical testing, accommodation, leave and termination. Employers must prepare to inject flexibility into their policies and practices to meet the ADA’s demanding standard for reasonable accommodations. According to Mr. Alvarez, “Employers should train supervisors on individualized assessments and develop protocols or guidelines for responding to workplace limitations posed by injuries or illnesses. Forget about trying to discern whether someone meets the ADA definition of ‘disability’ – it’s a litigation issue at best, and, in most cases, a losing one.”
Among other things, Mr. Alvarez suggests employers review job descriptions since they are frequently a starting point for an individualized assessment. Employers also should consider implementing a formalized process for addressing reasonable accommodation requests or reviewing reasonable accommodation procedures already in place. Employers skilled in “individualized assessment” often rely on forms, internal guidelines, or template letters to help facilitate communication with individuals with disabilities and their healthcare providers. These practices will become both more common and indispensable as employers grapple with a more demanding and relevant ADA.