Interactive process necessary to ADA accommodations

Charlie Plumb, an employment attorney with McAfee & Taft, discusses mandated steps to accommodate disabled employees upon their return to work.
by Paula Burkes Modified: May 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm •  Published: May 22, 2013

Q: What does it mean to engage in an “interactive process?”

A: Under the ADA, an interactive process means a two-way discussion between the employer and the individual. Such discussions should focus on identifying the disabled worker's specific limitations and discussing and considering potential accommodations that would allow him to overcome those limitations. Employers who fail to do this before deciding to end the person's employment — even if it is later found that a reasonable accommodation could not be made — may find themselves defending a failure-to-accommodate claim in court.

Q: Are employers required to provide a specific accommodation requested by the employee?

A: No. Some accommodations requested by employees may be unreasonable or impose undue hardship on the company. If there is an accommodation that is feasible, then as long the employer offers an accommodation that is effective and allows the employee to return to work, that employer has fulfilled its legal obligations under the ADA. Likewise, the employer can't require the disabled worker to accept the accommodation offered. If the worker rejects an effective accommodation, they may not be qualified to remain in their job.


by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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