By Guest Blogger Lou Orslene, Co-director, Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
I’ll start at the beginning. The foundation for an inclusive workplace is the reasonable accommodation process. Reasonable accommodation is a change in the workplace because of applicant or employee’s long standing disability, a new or progressive chronic health condition, a recent injury at work or off the job, a challenging pregnancy, or medical impairment. The essential underpinning for a successful accommodation is a robust interactive process. In order to build a structure, e.g. an inclusive workplace, you must have a blueprint. Follow me here – the blueprint provides an expeditious, consistent, and defensible model for everyone in their various roles to follow. This blueprint or model is also transparent to all, and, in light of the various risks, tolerates few deviations from the plan.
In my JAN experience now of almost 20 years, I find that far too many reasonable accommodation policies lack a blueprint. Hence, they are not actionable. Most provide the goal of equal opportunity for people with disability; many offer accommodations to applicants, new hires, and employees and provide an email address or an 800 number for people to call. But, few offer a comprehensive blueprint including a practical process containing all of the elements necessary for recruiters, hiring managers, supervisors, and human resource partners to know “what and when” to do when someone needs an accommodation or adjustment at work.
So let’s think of your accommodation policy and process as a blueprint. This blueprint provides the big picture as well as diagrams providing the detail necessary for people in various roles to reach that big picture goal – workplace inclusion. I suggest your blueprint include three primary diagrams representing three points in the employee life cycle. One would be for recruiters; one for hiring managers; and one for supervisors, HR partners, the Disability Coordinator, return-to-work specialist, workers compensation specialist, facilities manager (well you get the idea) and anyone else who you have found employees go to in order to request an accommodation.