David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute's (NELI) ADA & Equal Employment Opportunity Services, says there are five words every supervisor should use when it comes to the ADA and reasonable accommodations:
"How can I help you?"
In Katie Clarey's article for HR Dive, "The 5 magic words that can prevent an ADA claim", Fram, addressing attendees of the NELI's Employment Law Update conference, followed with 5 tips:
- simple for simple
- engage / interact
- preferential treatment is OK
- document, document, document
- respond to co-workers questions
Throughout his presentation, Fram urged:
". . . heed the ADA's rules and regulations, all by first posing that simple question to employees who indicate they're having difficulty working because of an impairment. Once they've got that down, there are a few more training items that can help managers prevent disability discrimination claims.
Find simple solutions for simple problems — and document it
Fram brought up a request more and more supervisors are hearing: "Can I bring my emotional support animal to work?" Most supervisors might balk if an employee approached them with such a request — how can a busy office cope with an animal walking around? But he urged attendees to remind their supervisors to ask good questions.
He once counseled a supervisor fretting over the emotional support animal question. "What kind of animal is it?" he remembered asking his client. "A goldfish," the client said.
For Fram, the answer was simple enough: let the emotionally distressed employee set a small goldfish bowl on her desk to calm her as she works. But even this simple fix requires thorough documentation of six things:
- what the person said when they came to the supervisor;
- what the supervisor said; (Hint: it should be those five magic words.)
- what the person requested;
- that the supervisor said yes to the request;
- that the supervisor did not make any inquiries about medical information; and
- that the supervisor followed up with the employee and asked about the progress."