As an employer, meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be traumatic. The key to protecting yourself and your employees is communication. When an employee informs you of a disability, it’s time to sit down and discuss limitations, identify reasonable accommodations and obtain any necessary documentation.
You have the right to ask for documentation from a doctor and, if necessary, request that the employee see a doctor of your choosing. You also have the right to talk to the doctor directly. You may want to get a signed release from the employee granting you permission to talk to the doctors. Though you can talk to the doctor without the release, doctors will be more likely to provide information with the patient’s written consent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Doctors will often write prescriptions based on a patient’s request, without considering other options.
As an employer, you may not bring up what you think may be an employee’s disability unless the disability is obvious, as in the case of an employee in a wheelchair. You also may not discuss an employee’s disability with any other employees, even if his or her coworkers want to know why the employee seems to be receiving special privileges.
For more information on ADA, visit the Website for the U.S. Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act, at www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.