Columbia EDP Blog

News From Columbia EDP

Posted: 2019-09-09

Four Misunderstood Terms in the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to a lot of organizations—all public employers and any private employer with 15 or more employees. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of confusion about what the law requires and what its terms entail. A big reason for this confusion is the language of the law itself; the ADA speaks of nebulous concepts like undue hardship and reasonable accommodation. Words like undue and reasonable are by their nature open to some interpretation, which is not exactly a comfort to employers.

Fortunately, while there’s no getting completely around the inherent ambiguity of the ADA, employers can feel confident in their application of the law by reviewing and understanding its most important concepts. In this article, we’re going to define and analyze the terms disability, undue hardship, reasonable accommodation, and interactive process. These are the big four terms to know.

Disability

Let’s start with the term disability. According to the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, someone who has a history or record of such an impairment, or someone who is regarded as having such an impairment.

While the law does not name every impairment that would be covered, it does identify some major life activities that could be limited by a disability. These include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

The most often misunderstood part of this definition is the phrase “regarded as disabled.” This phrase becomes important if the employer takes any adverse action because they believe a disability may exist. For example, if a hiring manager removes a candidate from consideration (adverse action) because the manager believed, rightly or wrongly, that the candidate has social anxiety, then the manager has illegally discriminated against the candidate because they regarded the candidate as disabled. In this situation, the candidate—even if they did not have social anxiety—would have a claim under the ADA.

Reasonable Accommodation

Employers also encounter the ADA when an applicant or employee asks for a reasonable accommodation. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a reasonable accommodation is “any change in the workplace or the way things are customarily done that provides an equal employment opportunity to an individual with a disability.” Reasonable accommodations “can cover most things that enable an individual to apply for a job, perform a job, or have equal access to the workplace and employee benefits such as kitchens, parking lots, and office events.”

Common types of accommodations include modifying work schedules, altering the way job duties are done, eliminating a non-essential job duty (like asking the receptionist to stack the monthly 100-lb paper delivery in the storage room), granting additional breaks, providing accessible parking, and providing materials in alternative formats (e.g., Braille, large print).

Not every requested accommodation will be reasonable, however. For one, employers are not required to remove an essential job function (the receptionist can still be expected to answer the phone). Employers also aren’t required to lower production standards or provide items for personal use, like wheelchairs or hearing aids.

If an accommodation is made, it’s important to assess its effectiveness. An accommodation set up today might not work well for the employee or the company two years from now. It’s okay to reassess later whether an accommodation remains reasonable given changed circumstances.

Posted: 2019-09-06

Five Reasons to Rehire Former Employees

It’s not uncommon for organizations to have a policy against rehiring former employees. This sort of policy makes perfect sense with respect to troublemakers, poor performers, or others who left under a dark cloud. It’s also understandable given that companies invest a lot of money training and developing their people, and employees who go elsewhere take that investment with them, sometimes to a competitor.

Posted: 2019-09-04

How do I choose employee timekeeping tools that are right for my business?

Posted: 2019-08-30

Five Steps to Succession Planning

While succession planning sounds like an overwhelming task, it’s simply a method of considering who your organization’s potential leaders may be in the years to come and placing them on a path to be successful in those roles. Future leaders will most likely come through a combination of promotion from within and recruiting sources from outside the organization—succession planning focuses on that first source of talent, your current employee base.

This article is intended to break down succession planning into simple steps to help you formalize a program within your organization.

Posted: 2019-08-28

Tattoos in the work place

We’re thinking of requiring employees to keep tattoos covered. Is this something we can do? What considerations should we make?

Posted: 2019-08-23

An Uncommon Benefit: Student Loan Repayment

Businesses looking to attract new employees must distinguish themselves from the competition, especially if they’re unable to pay salaries above the market value. Creative benefits often do the trick, particularly if they address specific needs

Posted: 2019-08-21

How to handle smoke breaks for employees

Do we have to give employees who smoke additional smoke breaks or allow them to return to work smelling strongly of smoke? We’ve received complaints from both other employees and customers.

Posted: 2019-08-16

Tips on handling suspected harassment in the office

Situation: We suspect that one of our employees harassed another, but we only have their conflicting stories to go on—no witnesses, video, or emails. The accuser’s account of the incident seems much more credible than that of the accused. Can we discipline with only this information?

Posted: 2019-08-14

3 Ways to Pay Less for Labor

While labor expenses are not something that business owners can completely eliminate, we have yet to encounter a business that cannot find ways to reduce them. A reduction in labor costs furnishes an immediate monetary benefit, so it’s easy to measure the ROI. One reason that it’s not difficult to reduce labor costs is because a variety of factors contribute to them. This article examines three reasons your labor costs are too high.

Posted: 2019-08-12

When does the I-9 need to be completed?

All new employees must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 on or before their first day of employment. Then, within three business days of their start date, they should submit acceptable proof of their identity and eligibility to work in the United States.

As the employer, you should complete Section 2 within those same three business days. If the duration of the job will be fewer than three days, you should complete Section 2 no later than the first day of employment. Section 2 is generally done at the time the employee brings in their identifying documents, as it asks for specific information about these forms of identification.