Litigation filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 set a new record in 2016. Between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016, a total of 9,373 new lawsuits were filed. This was an increase of 28% over the previous 12 months and more than double the number filed just five years ago, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

There could be many potential reasons for this uptick in legal action. However, ADAAA legislation often can be the result of employers not understanding their obligations — particularly the need to provide employees with reasonable accommodations.

For example, The Standard found that 63% of employers were unsure of how to connect an at-risk employee with assistance. This uncertainty can increase an employers' exposure to fines or legal action for not properly supporting an employee under the ADAAA.

Employers need to have best practices for accommodating employees under the ADAAA. Here are a couple of ideas that can help them provide support for employees and stay out of the legal fray.

Allow for flexible policies
While many employers will want to ensure workplace policies are fair and unbiased for all employees, this could lead to mandating certain practices that actually could get employers in trouble under the ADAAA.

For example, an employer’s policy may require an employee to be able to fully perform his or her job when returning from a disability leave. While employers may think otherwise, employees returning from a disability leave who aren’t back to “100%” can still be productive. To make this policy more flexible, an adviser’s employers could consider reassigning an employee to a new or temporary role, and gradually increase their workload based on their progress and overall recovery. Allowing for flexibility can go a long way to help employees get back on their feet.

Also see:Timeliness is critical in ADAAA compliance.”

For some employers, their success at making a product or providing a service can make it hard to deviate from that business-building formula. However, when a unique employee disability scenario endangers those time-honored procedures, an employer needs to think creatively to accommodate the employee.

Implementing outside-the-box accommodations can be an effective strategy for employers. From purchasing ergonomic or adaptive equipment, to simple changes like schedule modifications or temporary roles, accommodations that help provide individual support to an employee can go a long way to help improve his or her condition.

What’s more, these accommodations are often less than employers may think. The Job Accommodation Network notes that the average accommodation is about $500.

The intricacies of the ADAAA may be a lot for employers to handle, especially considering all the other responsibilities they have on their plate. However, these two best practices can help employees all while helping employers avoid legal trouble.

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Jeffery D. Smith

Jeffery D. Smith

Jeffery D. Smith is the Workplace Possibilities program practice consultant for Standard Insurance Company (The Standard), and has worked in the vocational rehabilitation field for more than 30 years.