The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) has changed the way your clients manage their employees’ disability leaves. This legislation, passed in 2008, broadened the range of qualifying disabilities. Due to this, employers should scrutinize absences for compliance with new regulations before an employee is terminated. This includes absences granted through family medical leave for an employee’s own condition.

Although you may think your clients are up to speed on accommodating their employees, a recent survey conducted by The Standard in November 2013 found that 23% of employers are unsure of how to handle disability absences and employee accommodations.

Employers who don’t investigate accommodations can expose themselves to legal action. The Standard has found five mistakes employers may make when considering ADAAA accommodations. Are your clients compliance savvy? Next time you check in, see if any are committing these mistakes:

  • Strictly enforcing policies. From an HR standpoint, an employer’s main concern is ensuring policies are fair and unbiased for all employees. However, strict return-to-work policies, such as those that mandate the worker be 100% capable, could conflict with the ADAAA.
  • Believing employee accommodations are too expensive. Although it may seem counterintuitive, providing accommodations to an employee with a disabling condition — such as ergonomic equipment or work task modifications — can actually save money in the long term.
  • Staying inside the box. Businesses are successful in part because they’ve mastered making a product or providing a service. It’s hard to deviate from a business-building formula, but a little creative thinking can go a long way when accommodating an employee.
  • Devaluing an aging workforce. People are staying in the workforce longer, which could increase the number of people with health conditions at work. Failing to recognize the contributions and importance of these employees by not finding accommodations can make an employer the target of a lawsuit.
  • Not asking for help. Effectively managing a disability claim can be labor-intensive for an HR manager, adding to an already overwhelming number of daily job responsibilities. A disability carrier’s team can often relieve the stress and help with things such as obtaining medical documentation, researching and implementing accommodations, investigating and overseeing alternative job placements and documenting the process.

Understanding your clients’ pain points is paramount these days, as they’ll be looking to you more and more to provide guidance in tricky situations. It’s important to stay up to date on hot topics affecting the HR field. To learn more about ADAAA compliance, connect with your insurance carrier for more information on best practices and how to provide counsel.
About Sandy Johnson and Alycia Bleeker

Sandy Johnson is a disability and productivity consultant with the Workplace PossibilitiesSM program at Standard Insurance Company. By meeting with employers and understanding their culture and needs, she matches on-site consultants with employers and oversees services that help injured and ill employees stay at work and return to work as soon as possible.

As an attorney at Standard Insurance Company, Alycia Bleeker advises on compliance with disability discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA/ADAAA), various privacy laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), state insurance laws, advertising laws and age discrimination laws.

About The Standard

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of Portland, Ore. in all states except New York, where insurance products are offered by The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York of White Plains, N.Y. Product features and availability vary by state and company, and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York. The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is licensed to solicit insurance business in only the state of New York.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access