How-To Tips for Employers

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The following are some basic tips for those working in employment settings:

 

bullet Developing accommodations
bullet Guidelines for Providing Feedback
bullet Requesting Documentation

 

Developing accommodations

Accommodations should be determined on a case-by-case basis, but there are procedures that can be used as a guide. Starting with a disclosure of disability or a request for an accommodation, open a dialogue with the person about the limitations experienced and brainstorm possible accommodations.

Periodically reviewing and assessing the accommodations and performance is recommended. Many have found that the existence of a policy for developing and implementing accommodations and a specific procedure for resolving conflicts that might arise helps address many of the concerns about accommodating people with mental illness in the workplace.

bulletIdentify whether the employee has disclosed a disability and/or initiated a request for reasonable accommodations.

 

bulletAssess required skills and competencies to do the job.
bullettechnical skills, expertise
bulletexplicit expectations
bulletgeneral work skills/implicit expectations

 

bulletDefine essential and nonessential functions of the job.

 

bulletEvaluate the functional limitations of the employee.

 

bulletGenerate ideas for job accommodations.

 

bulletAsk the employee what s/he thinks will help.

 

bulletConsult a job coach, employment specialist, state vocational rehabilitation counselor in your area.

 

bulletDiscuss with the employee’s service providers (with permission).

 

bulletContact the Job Accommodation Network 1-800-526-7234 for free technical assistance.

 

bulletConsider involving an ADA mediator who can help negotiate reasonable accommodations - contact the Key Bridge Foundation Mediation Training and Information Center for the ADA (703)528-1609 for referrals.

 

bulletSelect the accommodation that is both reasonable and effective.

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Guidelines for Providing Feedback

bulletAsk the employee to give his/her perspective on performance. Try to encourage the employee to have a balanced perspective, identifying both strengths and weaknesses. In first attempts, have the employee list more strengths than weaknesses. Use the following format:
 
bulletOverall evaluation of performance
bulletStrengths - ask the employee to mention at least two,
bulletWeaknesses - ask the employee to mention at least one,
bulletSpecific ways to improve performance

 

bulletSummarize what you heard the employee saying to demonstrate understanding of his or her perspective.

 

bulletIdentify and then share areas in which you agree with the employee’s perspective, starting with strengths. Then add your own points which were not mentioned. Again, identify more strengths than weaknesses.
bulletOverall evaluation of performance
bulletStrengths
bulletWeaknesses
bulletSpecific ways to improve performance

 

bulletTo disagree with the employee’s perspective, it may be helpful to say, “ you think you did _____, what I see is ____.”

 

bulletIn particular, be specific about what the employee can do to improve performance the next time. It is helpful to know what to do next time, not just what did not go well previously.

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Requesting Documentation

Sometimes employers may not be clear about whether someone is disclosing a psychiatric disability or requesting a reasonable accommodation. When the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer can legally ask the employee to provide documentation. Please refer to the Summary of the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on the ADA and People with Psychiatric Disabilities here on this site for additional information, or access the full text on the EEOC web site.

Once someone has told you that he/she has a disability or has requested a reasonable accommodation, if you are comfortable and/or clear about whether the person is covered under the ADA, begin to develop the accommodations. It is important to remember that the employer may not legally ask a job applicant before a job offer whether he or she has a disability or needs reasonable accommodations, unless that person has volunteered this information. If you are unsure about whether the employee is someone who is covered under the ADA as someone with a disability, ask for documentation from a professional.

 

bulletDescribe why you need this information, i.e., to verify the existence of a disability and the need for accommodation.

 

bulletIdentify the types of professionals who can provide this information - the EEOC guidelines state that a therapist (licensed social worker, licensed clinical psychologist, psychiatrist), medical doctor or other primary health care professional, psychiatric nurses, licensed mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselor or other related professional may all be qualified to provide the requested documentation.

 

bulletDescribe the type of information that you need in the documentation. Under the guidelines, you can ask for the following types of information:
 
bulletthat the employee has a covered disability under the ADA (an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity),
bulletfunctional limitations that the person experiences that are due to the disability, and
bulletsuggested accommodations in the workplace.

 

bulletIf the information provided by the professional still does not clarify the situation for you, you may ask the employee to meet with a professional of your choice to verify the disability and/or need for accommodation.

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