What are the Employer's Obligations?

When an employee has a disability that is known to the employer the employer and the employee have distinct responsibilities. The employee must participate in the interactive process and follow-through with reasonable accommodations agreed upon during the process. The employer also has responsibilities before, during, and after the interactive process.

The interactive process is the interaction between the employer, employee and typically FSDS staff that assures each member has a voice in identifying limitations influencing work performance and accommodations needed. The interactive process begins when the employer is aware of a disability and is the strategy to learn about and address the barriers/limitations caused by the disability. The interactive process must be offered to the employee by the employer and may include the employer’s request for medical documentation of disability limitations when limitations are unknown or unclear. The process includes discussion of the limitations, where the limitations influence the employee’s abilities in performing the job and discussion of accommodations that will reduce and/or eliminate the limitations’ influence on the job.

Some disability limitations will require reasonable accommodation, while some can be self-accommodated by the employee and other disability limitations may not impact the job at all.

 Responsibilities Before the Interactive Process

Essential and Marginal Job Functional Analysis (EMJFA)

A complete EMJFA or comprehensive job description of the position’s expectations should be available for each position. These documents would include the position’s specific purpose, function statements, determination of primary versus secondary functions, and a description of how the work is currently being performed including physical and cognitive requirements. Please contact us for a copy of the Essential and Marginal Job Function Analysis.

An accurate record of the essential requirements of an employee’s job supports a non-biased employer response within the accommodation process and ensures that the employer, employee and FSDS are better able to determine accommodations needed to allow the employee opportunity for job success. The document can also be used during a performance evaluation, when creating a performance management and development plan, and when the employer is creating interview questions and criteria for the position.

Relationships and Communication

It is helpful for the HR Representative and supervisor to have a good relationship and regular communication with the employee before the employee discloses a health condition. Regular communication includes positive feedback and constructive criticism (see Organizational Effectiveness site for talent development strategies). The employee should not be surprised by the employer’s perspective of his/her performance or attendance. A positive relationship within the team is helpful to the interactive process outcome. Resources on having conversations with employees can be found on the FSDS resources web page.

Summary Points

The HR Representative and supervisor are responsible to:

  • ensure that each employee has a complete and accurate EMJFA or job description. This document should be completed prior to the start of the interactive process.
  • support efforts to build a good relationship with the employee using strategies of regular communication concerning job expectations and performance.

Responsibilities During the Interactive Process

The HR Representative and/or supervisor are responsible to recognize when a request for accommodation is received. When a disability is known the HR Representative and supervisor should have a conversation with the employee to learn if work is influenced in any way by the disability. Continuing regular communication during the interactive process is essential to the success of the accommodation outcome.

The interactive process is considered to be one of two types: Simple or Complex. The PDF iconADA Interactive Flowchart (pdf) provides an outline of both simple and complex interactive processes.

Simple Interactive Process

A simple interactive process is defined as accommodations of office furniture, office accessories and computer software. In situations involving office needs the disability limitations are frequently known and lead the employee, supervisor and HR Representative to a specific “simple” reasonable accommodation that all are in agreement should be provided. However, when a disability that is not visible or the limitations are unclear, the HR Representative can request medical documentation from the treating healthcare provider (THP) to gain knowledge of the employee’s capabilities/limitations. The PDF iconMedical Information Request Form (MIRF) and Release of Information (pdf) should be used to obtain disability related capabilities/limitations information from the THP. If the THP indicates disability limitations that the HR Representative, supervisor and employee believe can be addressed within the scope of “simple interactive process” the employer should provide the accommodation if it is considered to be reasonable.

Complex Interactive Process

The interactive accommodation process is considered “complex” if limitations and capabilities of the employee require more than office furniture, office accessories or computer software or if the “simple” accommodation is believed unreasonable by the employer. In the complex interactive accommodation process, the HR Representative is to contact FSDS for guidance and support. FSDS will lead the team through the process, manage further medical informational needs, guide the team in identifying reasonable accommodation, consult in identifying accommodation resources, direct documentation responsibilities and coordinate the accommodation follow up plan. Please refer to the ADA Interactive Accommodation Flowchart.

In either strategy, “simple” or “complex” the HR Representative is to document the accommodation process and outcome using the PDF iconInteractive Disability Accommodation Document (IDAD) (pdf).

Summary Points

  • HR Representatives should use the tool “ADA Interactive Accommodation Flowchart” for guidance
  • HR Representatives should guide the simple interactive process with the employee and employer and document the accommodation using the IDAD
  • HR Representatives are to contact FSDS for guidance in a complex interactive process

Responsibilities After the Interactive Process

A Reasonable Accommodation that is Agreed upon by the Employer and Employee:

The HR Representative is to complete the Interactive Disability Accommodation Document (IDAD) and obtain signatures of the employee, supervisor, HR Representative, Senior HR Representative, and if applicable, DEO. The signed IDAD is be submitted to FSDS for record keeping and FSDS will distribute signed copies to the employee and HR Representative. The IDAD is a confidential document and the employer copy is to be maintained by the HR Representative in the employee’s medical section of the Personnel file. More information can be found on the Documentation Storage page.

When an accommodation agreement is reached the accommodation should be implemented immediately. If the accommodation requires time to purchase, set up, and/or provide training, these functions should be completed within a reasonable time period.

The HR Representative, supervisor and employee should implement the follow up plan established during the interactive process. This should include formal or informal conversations at regular frequency of the success and/or needs of the accommodation.

Responsibilities When Accommodations Are Not Agreed Upon by Team Members

Accommodation is Not Accepted by the Employee

When simple accommodations offered by the employer are not accepted by the employee, the HR Representative should complete the Interactive Disability Accommodation Document noting employee disagreement and inform the employee of the right to appeal the decision to the director of FSDS. The accommodation appeal form for employment is available from FSDS. During an appeal, the employer is not to implement any employment change that would negatively affect the employee.

A Simple Accommodation is Not Approved by the Employer

  • When the employer believes a reasonable accommodation is not available for a simple accommodation the HR Representative should contact FSDS for assistance with the interactive process. The employer is not to modify or deny an accommodation request without consulting FSDS.

A Complex Accommodation is Not Accepted by the Employee or Approved by the Employer

  • FSDS is to be involved in all complex interactive processes. When a reasonable accommodation is not available or is unknown to the team, FSDS staff will guide the team to other options.

Requesting Review of an Accommodation Decision

Some accommodations are not agreed upon within the process and an employee has rights to request review of the accommodation outcome with the Director of FSDS. If the outcome is unmediated, either or both employee and employer may request further review with the UI Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. During an accommodation review, the employer is not to implement any employment change that would negatively affect the employee.  For more information use the Disputed Accommodation Process.

Summary Points:

  • The interactive process is to be completed in all situations where a limitation is known.
  • The process, if simple, should be completed at the local employer level, coordinated by the HR Representative. Complex interactive processes and simple processes without agreement are to be referred to FSDS for guidance.
  • All accommodations that employers and/or employees feel should be modified or denied are to be referred to FSDS.
  • The process must be documented and agreements filed in the employee’s medical file.
  • All accommodations processes should include follow up by the HR Representative with the supervisor and employee to assure the accommodation is successful.