This session is part of the ADA Distance Learning Program and hosted by your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center. Today we are going to be talking about Accommodating Employees with Psychiatric Disabilities. We have with us Kim MacDonald Wilson, hi Kim.
Kim is currently a Research Associate at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University and she is probably one of the leading experts on this topic throughout the United States. She has worked as a principal investigator of research projects on reasonable workplace accommodations for people with psychiatric disabilities. She has written and published several journal articles on accommodations and employment issues as well as developing a web site for employers on the ADA and job accommodations. We have listed several resources on the Great Lakes web site that you can go back and check out at your leisure. Kim, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Thanks for saying such nice things about me.
This has been a really interesting topic and continues to be a topic that we, especially those of us that are supervisors, struggle with-how to accommodate employees with psychiatric disabilities. Accommodations for employees with psychiatric disabilities are not always as clear cut as they might be for people with mobility impairments or with visual impairments and so forth. I''m hoping you can shed a little light on the subject for us and give us some pointers for practical accommodations.
Okay. Well I will try my best. What I thought I would talk about today, is basically four sections or four main points. First I thought I would do a brief review of what is a reasonable accommodation and talk a little bit about the nature of psychiatric disabilities and some of the limitations in functioning that people experience when they have a psychiatric disorder. And then go on to describe the types of accommodations that are effective for people with psychiatric disabilities through some of our research and experience helping people to work. Thirdly discuss a little bit about how to identify ask provide accommodations. What the process is. And then fourth, explore how to deal with job performance issues when they come up on the job that supervisors may face and then open it up for questions at the end. Let me start with what is a reasonable accommodation. I''m going to try to avoid some of the legal jargon and try to focus a bit more on the practical issues around accommodations. I think of reasonable accommodations as those changes in a work situation that allow an otherwise qualified employee to perform the job tasks required. So that might involve changes to the procedures or the way the job gets done. It might involve changes to policies, like sick leave or the work schedule or conduct. It might involve changes in the way supervision is carried out or other types of communication with the employee. I just wanted to remind people that, to think about accommodations in the same way we may think about changes that are made in the work situation for any of us that might have some needs that adjustments in our job. For example, if a parent needs to take time off from work to go get a sick child from school. Most employers would allow that to happen. Or an employee changes their work hours in order to attend a class or to go to a doctor''s appointment or minor duties are exchanged when there is a big rush period or heavy project responsibilities so that all the work gets done that needs to get done. So accommodations for psychiatric disabilities may not be really that different from things that we do for most employees. Or it may not be very different from accommodations that you might provide for people with physical disabilities. What I wanted to do to illustrate that point is to talk a little bit about some of the accommodation categories that have been mentioned by the federal government for people with physical disabilities. So those would be things like modifying work sites, providing assistive devices, changing work schedules or restructuring jobs, adopting flexible leave policies providing human assistance. In those categories, for example, in terms of modifying a work site for someone with a physical disability, you might install a ramp or raise the height of a desk at a workstation. For someone with psychiatric disabilities, who the limitations are not physical in nature, they are more emotional or cognitive in nature, you might install wall partitions, it would be a physical modification to to the work site but to help someone concentrate better. Or you might move their desk to a quieter area. We may be familiar with providing readers, interpreters or personal care assistance on the work site for people with different types of physical disabilities. For someone with a psychiatric disability we might do something similar only what we do is allow a job coach to be on site to help the person learn the job or establish a co-worker/mentor to help someone kind of fit into the workplace. In terms of assistive devices we may have a large print computer or a TTY machine available in the work site for someone with a physical disability. For someone with a psychiatric disability, we might use computer e-mail for daily instructions to be given to the person instead of verbal instructions if that is something that would help them follow what it is they need to do. Or allow them to use headphones so that it can kind of screen out distractions so they can concentrate on their job. Using sick leave for people who have mobility impairments on snow days, we have experienced a lot of snow here in Boston recently and the sidewalks haven''t always been walkable. With someone with a psychiatric disability you might allow use of sick leave for mental health reasons or allow additional leave for someone who needs training in order to improve some of their job skills. Or return to work-if they have been in the hospital on a graduated schedule. Those would be some things that we might do for people with psychiatric disabilities that are similar in category to physical disability, but we are looking at things that a address the emotional and some of the cognitive difficulties that might arise, either from the medical condition or from the treatment for the medical condition. If you think of it, for people with physical challenges, you may make physical site changes but for people with psychiatric disabilities, you might make more interpersona changes or organizational changes to address some of the cognitive or social-emotional issues that arise. Next I thought I would talk a little bit about the nature of psychiatric disabilities. A disability itself is a medical condition that substantially limits or interferes significantly with what are called major life activities or main functions that most people do in living. Some of the psychiatric conditions that you may hear of or may be considered disabling if they interfere with major life activities would be things like major depression, bipolar disorder also known as manic depressive illness, various anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorders or panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia or personality disorders. Just because someone has one of these conditions in and of itself doesn''t say that it is disabling. What you really need to look at is whether those conditions interfere with someone''s functioning in these areas, major life activities. You also may be informed of someone''s medical condition in plain English, so someone may not use these medical terms that I just mentioned. But they may say that "I''m stressed and depressed" or "I''ve been having some emotional problems" or "I have a blood disorder" or something along those lines. There may be a number of ways that people might refer to their psychiatric condition if they are going to disclose their disability. Not all of these conditions are disabling at all times. Sometimes they are episodic in nature, for example with bipolar disorder there are often periods of time where someone is functioning well and the condition is not affecting them at all. And sometimes where they may cycle into either a depression or what is called a manic episode where they are more active and thoughts are racing and those kinds of things. It is not always predictable when that happens. But many times people are able to return to their typical level of functioning with treatment. One of the things you really need to look at is how the condition affects functioning. Under the ADA some of the areas of the major life activities that might be affected by these various psychiatric conditions might be things like thinking, concentrating, socializing, working, learning, sleeping, and there may be others. Not all of these would apply to every single person who has a psychiatric condition. Or even two people with the same psychiatric label may have different difficulties in functioning. They are not necessarily certain functional limitations or difficulties that happen with only certain psychiatric disorders. You really need to take it on a individual or case-by-case basis. What is most important for supervisors and rehabilitation counselors is to know how this one person''s condition affects them in their job or in work situations. We did a study on looking at reasonable accommodations for people with psychiatric disabilities in the workplace and one of the things we wanted to find out about what were the difficulties that people were having on the job that required or needed an accommodation to be provided. What we found were that there were, if we categorized those types of limitations, the cognitive limitations were the most frequently identified types of limitations. For example, remembering instructions or following instructions, sustaining concentration, being able to prioritize various work tasks or meet deadlines, organizing your work and even assessing your own work performance, being able to tell when you are doing a good job and when you are not. The second most frequent were in the emotional-social-interpersonal area-responding to feedback or communicating with a supervisor such as asking questions or offering help to co-workers, socializing with others, fitting in and connecting with your co-workers. Another area where what we would call the interpersonal limitations or emotional limitations. Sometimes people have difficulty with adjusting to changes at work. So you have a change in supervisor or a new co-worker coming into the job, or even a change in some of the work tasks or job duties that someone is required to do may happen. That may be experienced as stressful for some people and takes a while to adjust to those. They might have some difficulty managing their own stress or symptoms that come up when they are on the job so they can get the job done are often some of the difficulties people run into. Sometimes there are also some physical difficulties that people might have especially if they have been out of work due to a psychiatric condition and are returning to work. Maintaining stamina and adjusting to the work pace needed at the work site may take a period after coming out of the hospital or back off of leave for a little while until people can get back to their typical performance levels. As I mentioned before, sleep is often an issue for people with psychiatric conditions that a lot of medications may cause groginess, especially in the morning or agitation that makes it difficult to sleep at night. So fatigue may also be an issue for many people. I would like to take a moment to talk a little bit then about some of the accommodations that we have found that are effective for people with psychiatric disabilities in the workplace. The research study that I mentioned before, the most frequently used type of accommodation was an area of providing human assistance. Since we were working with or studying people who were in supported employment programs and had gotten jobs through those supported employment programs, often the job coach support was an accommodation. The employer allowed the job coach to interact or communicate with the supervisor, the job coach may have been on the job with the person when they first started to train them in the various tasks of the job or the job coach may have assisted the supervisor in doing supervision or talking about facilitating feedback to the employee about their work performance and in general provide some support to the person on the job. For people who don''t have a job coach or are not involved in a supported employment situation, flexible scheduling is often the most frequently used type of accommodation. That might involve is a change in someone''s work hours, such as coming in later but working a full day. Once they come in, if they have problems with fatigue in the morning, for some people who are adjusting to this stamina issue, maybe changing the days of the week that they come into work or working a part-time schedule and building up to a full time schedule may be useful. Sometimes for people having a work at home day if the job can accommodate something like that. Even though they are still being paid to do that work, working outside the work site where they don''t have to get themselves up and ready and out the door and face people but are able to concentrate and do specific tasks at home may be something that is useful. To go actually to go back a little bit about human assistance. We found changes in supervision and co-worker support were also very effective accommodations. For example, a supervisor might meet with the employee more frequently than they might meet with others to check in with how they are doing, provide constructive feedback, maybe to give instructions in writing versus verbally so the person can remember what it is they are supposed to do. Coordinating with a job coach or support person, if that person is involved in supporting the employee. And co-worker support, checking in with someone, maybe taking extra time to meet with them for lunch or on breaks, providing tips on how to get along with the supervisor, those kinds of things may also be very helpful for someone with psychiatric disabilities. You can see those things might address some of the cognitive issues or some of the interpersonal issues that come up for people with psychiatric disabilities. We also found that sometimes modifying the job duties, providing additional training or longer period of training to learn a job were helpful. Other things that might be helpful for someone with difficulty with concentration might be installing partitions, for some people even offering a private work space or private place to go when someone is feeling overwhelmed especially if they work in a cubicle around other people. Just to have a place they can go to be quiet if they need to to take a break might be something that is very useful. I worked with someone who worked as an editor on a contract basis. And we worked out with her, she heard voices in her head that interfered with being able to concentrate on the editing work she was doing. We worked out with her supervisor that she could use headphones and listen to a walkman, listen to some soothing music, which kinds of drowned out the voices in her head and allowed her to concentrate on her job. Her job didn''t involve talking with other people so that was a reasonable accommodation in that situation. You may also change policies such as for someone who is taking medication that causes dry mouth-being able to have beverages at your workstation which in some situations whether you work on computer or machinery or as a cashier might not be something that typically is allowed for most employees. There are lots of examples of accommodations both on our web site and the Job Accommodation Network web site of different ideas about given different situations what kinds of accommodations could be effective. Let us take a moment to talk a little bit about the process of developing accommodations. We found and other researchers have found that the process of developing accommodations is very important. Accommodation is not just technical changes to a job but it really occurs in a social or interpersonal context in a work situation. The social nature of the job is often very important for people who experience various types of psychiatric disabilities maybe for a number of reasons. It might be due to the condition themselves, it might be due to discrimination and stigma about mental illnesses and fears about how people might think about you differently if they know you have a mental illness. There may be a lot of stress associated with kind of hiding your condition from other people. And there may also be side effects from medications that affect being able to interact with other people effectively or as you had done before. So the process of accommodation is a very important component to developing successful job accommodations. There has been some research by Lauren Gates and Sheila Acabus at Columbia University, they have a workplace center that deals with workplace issues and peoples with disabilities. They have identified four dimensions of the supervisory role that tends to affect employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Number one is the attitude of supervisors toward disability and toward workers with disabilities specifically. What they found was that those people who were out on short term disability leave were less likely to return to work if they felt their supervisors did not care whether or not they returned. Just that perception affected the employment outcome, whether people were able to return to work. Secondly, the communication between the supervisor and the worker about gaps in their functional capacity that is caused by the condition was a factor. For example, adjustment to work was enhanced when there was communication about the impact of the disability on work and clear communication about that. Thirdly supervisory style plays a role as well. Employment outcomes are better when supervisors allow workers to participate in the accommodation process and in decisions related to the work. Also when the supervisor used the worker''s skills and made expectations for work very clear to the supervisorsee. And fourth, support by supervisors. This is in research that applied to all workers, not just workers with disabilities. That is a factor in employment outcomes. For example, perceptions of support by the supervisoree or by employees have been shown to reduce feelings of work related stress and increase a sense of well-being, it has also been shown to increase job satisfaction. There is actually some research that said there is higher performance among workers when supervisors are helpful to employees and when supervisors involve supervisorsees in the decision making process related to work. For workers with disabilities employment is enhanced when natural supports in the workplace are used versus use of job coaches. So you can see this whole issue of support, communication and interaction between the supervisor and the supervisorsee and co-workers is very important in this process. Supervisory support, if someone views their supervisor as supportive they are more likely to disclose their disability to their supervisor and accommodation effectiveness is enhanced when supervisors are seen as supportive. So it seems that supervisors really are the key to success of accommodations for all employees with disabilities, but specifically for employees with psychiatric disabilities. Let me talk a little bit about some of the tips we have employers on how to develop accommodations. The first thing that is helpful to do is identify whether the employee has disclosed a disability or has initiated a request for reasonable accommodations. Now that may seem to be fairly obvious to people, but because the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require people to use certain terms in disclosing a disability, and requesting accommodation, employers need to be aware of some of the plain English types of ways that the communication about disability may occur. For example, someone may say "I have a medical condition" or "I take medication that gets in the way of getting up in the morning, so I need to be able to adjust my work schedule to come in later and work later." Or someone may say "I have a chemical imbalance in my blood and I take medication that makes me very thirsty, so I need to be able to have water at the workstation...at my desk," that kind of thing. The first thing you need to figure out is whether in fact you are dealing with someone who has already disclosed a disability and requested accommodation. Secondly, it is helpful to then assess what is required in terms of the skills and competencies to do the job. What those essential functions of the job are and what is non-essential. You would need to look at some of the technical skills that are required, what the job duties are, what someone spend the most time doing or is most important for that particular job task. For example, someone who is a secretary and primarily does word processing and filing but is also required to fill in on the phones when the receptionist is at lunch, essential functions of the job would involve word processing and filing. The non-essential functions of the job would involve the reception work and those could potentially be assigned to someone else, if that person required that type of accommodation. If you know the job very well, what is required, what the standards are and expectations to do, then you can look at what some of the difficulties in functioning the employee is having in the job situation. Someone may be able to tell you I''m having trouble concentrating right now or I get anxious when in a group of people, I would like to avoid going to the staff meeting every week, or giving my report on my work unit. Try to figure out what is getting in the way of the person doing the job and meeting the job requirements as required. It is helpful then to involve the person in that process. The two of you then and possibly with professional assistance can generate ideas for job accommodations. Do some brainstorming to figure out what some potential accommodations might be helpful. Ask the person what they think might work. If you are unsure, go to some of the resources such as the Job Accommodation Network, which may be able to help identify accommodations that would be effective to help identify what is essential and non-essential in the job. That would be a great resource for many people. You may consult a rehabilitation professional, employment specialist, state vocational rehabilitation counselor in your area that may have some ideas for accommodations. Then the employer really has the right to kind of decide among effective accommodations which one they would prefer to provide. But we always suggest also that it is helpful, again, to ask the employee what they prefer. One of the problems sometimes that comes up with these kinds of issues is that some of the accommodations that work for people with psychiatric disabilities are some changes that most employees would prefer to have, such as a private office or closer work space to park so they don''t have to walk so far to get into the building or changes in their work schedule so they can come in later, leave later where certain styles of supervision that are seen as supportive. So there may be some envy among co-workers that come up when they notice someone else is experiencing some changes in the work that they would like to have themselves. Often we find that some of the accommodations that are effective for people with psychiatric disabilities are changes at work that could be helpful for co-workers and other people in the work unit to be more effective in their work performance, in their job performance. So that is something also to keep in mind, that a benefit of providing accommodations and expanding it to other people in the workplace may be that you are seen as more supportive and you are improving the work performance of all of your employees, not just your employees with disabilities. Finally, one of the issues that often I am asked about, are the issues with how to deal with performance problems of people with psychiatric disabilities in the job situation. Let us assume that you know a person has a psychiatric disability, the disclosure has already happened. You as the supervisor recognize that there are performance issues in the job. First you may approach the person and tell them what you observe. You say, "I notice that you are having problems organizing your work," or that "you had more difficulty meeting your deadlines," or that "you are quieter, you are not greeting the employees as they come into the work site." You may also at that time state what the expectations or standards are, according to the job description or the employee policy manual and ask yourself, is this the same standard that is expected of all employees? That is a check step for you to make sure you are not focusing on something that is particular to that person that is not something expected,-you are expecting something of that person that is not expected of all employees. You also then need to ask yourself if this performance expectation or standard is essential to the job. Is it absolutely necessary for someone to have a neat appearance and clean clothes, when they work as a garbage collector or they have no communication with other co-workers, they work alone. It is important to evaluate then whatever those standards are. Is it really necessary business wise? It has been helpful to engage in a problem solving approach. For example, if you have an employee who is chronically late, late for work, they are supposed to be in by 9:00 but over the last few weeks they are arriving at 9:30-10:00 and their responsibilities involve job contact with sales representatives, and those sales representatives expect this person to answer marketing questions and expedite special orders. The standard is that they are there to be able to answer the questions for the sales representative. But this person then also explains that they are late because of a disability, that their medications are making it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and to be to work on time and they would like a later work schedule. The employer then can look at whether accommodation can happen, or if you discipline the employee just like you might do with any other employee. But it is helpful to ask the person about what kinds of things could be contributing to the problems. Is it medications, is it something for the disorder, are the symptoms arising again even though they have been under control, that kind of thing. You then ask yourself whether accommodation is possible. For example, have some of these changes been used with other employees in the past? For example, this change in later work hours. If so, then you can go on to develop a plan to check in on the effectiveness of whatever accommodation you decide on with the employee, with the supervisor. This question of whether to terminate or to accommodate an employee who is having performance problems come up when the disclosure doesn''t happen until after the disciplinary action has taken effect. In those cases you can ask yourself, would you terminate a non-disabled employee in a similar situation? Did you know about the disability prior to the discipline? Again, has the person disclosed formally or have you had this plain English notification of a disability? Is the reasonable accommodation request retrospective or prospective. That is after you have already taken disciplinary action and the person asks for a second chance, should you give them a second chance? That is often up to the employer in that situation unless it is something you have done for other employees, non-disabled employees have given those kinds of second chances. If you don''t know until after someone, it has gotten to the point where you are making that termination decision, and don''t know about the disability beforehand, you basically are following any standards for disciplinary action that you apply to other employees. As long as you are doing that, for the most part you are probably in good shape legally. In terms of practicality, we would hope that most supervisors are interested in kind of keeping employees who in the past may have been doing a good job but are running into performance problems and figure out a way to try and address those issues. Okay. Jennifer, if you are on line, that concludes the formal remarks that I had prepared on this whole issue of accommodations.
Thanks, Kim, I''m still back to one of your suggestions about 15 minutes ago for-tips for working with your supervisor, I''m like hmm, where can I get those at? I know a lot of people would like those tips. Part of the whole realm of suggestions was about being buddied with a co-worker. I know giving technical assistance on the ADA for a while now, we always make that suggestion. But the practicality of that suggestion, it really has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis wouldn''t you say? Because there are some people that don''t mix. They are like water and oil. There are some people that would work really well in that type of circumstance and there are some that you want to keep in separate corners of the room.
Right. Definitely. You are not going to want to appoint someone a mentor. First of all if the person hasn''t asked for something like that or isn''t open to that. Secondly if you know the person that you are considering as the mentor is someone that maybe doesn''t get along with this employees, because then it is got not going to work. You do have to take it on a case-by-case basis. Some of the issues for the tips for employers is on our web site, www.bu.edu/sarpsych/reasaccom. So that site is particularly for employers. We have information on what accommodations work on the job. We have frequently asked questions and scenarios on how to provide accommodations and we have tips on developing accommodations, guidelines for providing feedback, requesting documentation and lots of other links and resources. That might be a good site for some information.
Definitely. I would highly recommend for those of you that haven''t been able to access the web materials yet, to do so, as a lot of the resources that you gave are probably some of the web resources that really go most in depth on this topic.
And that at the Center for Psychiatric Rehab being one of those. At this point I''m going to bring Kathy back on to give instructions on how people can ask questions. What I will ask is that people if you are calling from a speaker phone, if you have the option of picking up the handset and asking from the hands set, to please do so so your call can be audible. Or to get as close to the speaker phone as possible. And I''m sure that there are a lot of people that have very individualized questions and we are going to try to address these in the broadest sense possible to be of benefit to the entire audience. So Kathy, I will leave it to you to give instructions to queue in.
Yes. My question is at some point earlier did you mention that it is up to the employer as to what accommodations they will provide?
Well, what the Americans with Disabilities Act says is that you need to first identify what accommodations would be effective and it is helpful to enter that interactive process with the employee to generate ideas for what kinds of accommodations would be helpful. If there are several accommodations that would be effective, under the law employers have the right to choose which of equally effective accommodations they would like to provide. They would then consider the hardship issues, the resources they have, what is easiest to provide, that kind of thing. So yes, employers can''t force someone to accept an accommodation, but if you have ideas for a number of different accommodations to address a particular issue, employers really do have the right under the law to choose the one that they would like to provide.
We want to find out if a person don''t talk about their disability, and it is hidden and we want to know what can we do to accommodate them?
Okay. I would assume your question is that you might suspect that someone has a psychiatric condition or a disability but they haven''t actually told anyone about it. You are observing something in the work site in terms of their behavior or performance or those kinds of things. Is that right?
You are correct.
Okay. The first thing I would probably do in a situation like that is really focus specifically on the performance issues or the behavior issue that you are observing. If you are a supervisor and you have shared feedback with someone about what you notice, what you observe, asked for their perspective and so on, and the person is still not forthcoming about a disability but there is still a performance issue in spite of your attempts to help address it, you might then recommend to the person that there are a number of resources, maybe, that they could go to to find help for anything that is going on with them. Many employers have an employee assistance program or counseling services or something along those lines, that you might recommend to someone to look into or in human resources to try and find other supports or professionals that may be able to provide some assistance to the person. It would be up to the person about whether to pursue that, whether to go ahead and disclose a disability and ask for a specific accommodation. If they haven''t disclosed and you have no information, that they have a disability, you are not required under the law to provide accommodation. But it often puts people on the defensive if you go right ahead and say I think you have a psychiatric problem you need help. Go get help.
Kim we have an on line question here. I think it gets to the issue that many of us encounter regardless of whether or not it is an accommodation for a person with a disability and that is a person requesting or making multiple requests for accommodation and the connection that they might be abusing their eligibility to make the request. You know, what should an employer look at in that type of situation?
So you are requesting accommodations that don''t seem to be effective, that the person continues asking for more and more changes.
I think the question is getting to the person keeps requesting and keeps requesting accommodation.
One of the things that is helpful whenever someone requests an accommodation and you start to provide it is to set up a plan to monitor how effective that accommodation is with the employee, with the supervisor, and that kind of thing. You are checking in on is the accommodation working, has work performance improved and is there a need to make some changes in the accommodation that was provided? Either because it is not effective, or you haven''t seen enough change in performance. Using that strategy so that you are providing accommodation, you are checking in about the accommodation effectiveness and job performance and setting a time line for when you are going to be checking in on those things is often helpful. Again, you always need to go back to what is required in the job, what are the performance standards and is the person meeting the performance standard. If they are having difficulty doing that, you will try to explore accommodations that are effective. There will come a point no matter how much you provide accommodation, the performance is not changing or the accommodations that you are providing are really changing the nature of the job, or they are getting to be too much of a hardship, too many resources providing accommodations. This process to kind of monitor the effectiveness hopefully can address that issue
Wouldn''t you say that a what a person asks for as far as an accommodation today could be very effective but six months or a year from now might not be effective any more?
That is right. And it doesn''t mean that it is the fault of the person or whatever, the nature of their condition may change or the nature of the job changed. So that is why it is often helpful to check in with how effective the accommodation is, if there are other needs for accommodation down the road.
I do job placement and I wanted to go back over issue that you brought up briefly. And that is employers and co-workers can readily see the need for accommodations when they are very visible.
That is right.
And in cases where other people don''t know that a particular worker has a disability, it seems there is more resistance to accommodating them and others see it as a person getting preferential treatment or something like that. What suggestions do you have for dealing with the fact that invisible disabilities are just as real as visible ones? What do you say to the person is co-workers when they say well, why, did that person get their own office or something like that? Because you have confidentiality issues.
Right. Well, the first question you want to ask or even talk to the person who you are providing the accommodation to is how they might want questions addressed that might come up like that from a co-worker about why do you get a private office or why do you get that cool parking space? Find out whether they are willing to disclose to the co-workers. Lauren Gates wrote an article that talks about the work accommodation process as a social process. They have a psycho-educational program that they implement in terms of educating co-workers about disabilities in disabilities, maybe workers disabilities and accommodations, how to do accommodations and that kind of thing so there is more understanding among co-workers. If the person does not want that disclosure to happen with co-workers, the supervisor needs to respect that. In those cases when they are asked by a co-worker, why do they get a private office? Basically you need to do something that doesn''t address, well we are required to be law or by the ADA, you don''t want to indicate anything that indicates the person has a disability. But you might say, well, you know, we as supervisors often have to make decisions about the most effective ways to help people do a good job. That is what we are doing in this situation. If you have a specific need you can come to me as your supervisor and talk to me about that. We will see if we know of something that could be helpful for you to do your job better.
Hi. I was wondering how do you achieve some of the accommodations you listed in a union environment? As well in terms of changing the actual workload.
I''m not as familiar with unions. I''m trying to think I just read something recently about that. I think the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the web site I gave on that, has some information about dealing with unions and some of the case law around that. If you are looking at changes the work requirements of someone''s job, I know they have said seniority issues that often come up with union workers, don''t necessarily have to be put on hold. For example, if you are looking at reassignment to another job, that kind of thing. I think the issue comes up when you are really changing the essential functions of the job and you are working with a union around whether the position is one that would be changed or lessened that the unions would be concerned about those kinds of changes.
Right. I would probably refer back to it would be whether or not the accommodation would be an undue hardship on to the other employees in seniority and conflict with the contract. We did do a session on accommodations in unionized environments back in August or September. So people should take a look at that transcript that is posted to the web site. Also I will point out to people that haven''t participated in these sessions before, that we did do a session last spring with Sharon Reihnert from EEOC, on the EEOC Guidance on Reasonable Accommodations. Sharon provided a lot of enlightening interpretation of the guidance. That transcript is also up on the Great Lakes web site for people to go back and reference. I think we have time for one more question and then we will start to wrap up
Hi, this is Jay Johnson. We were really wondering, reasonable accommodations a lot of times people with disabilities don''t understand what accommodations are available to them especially when you are talking about people who have physical disabilities, now bring it up into the realm of dealing with somebody that has a psychiatric illness. How do you deal with that? Because there are a lot of businesses that don''t follow generally accepted management practices. So they would just couple three times you are late, you are fired. See you later. Would they have any recourse?
Would someone in the situation where they were fired for being late have any recourse?
Yes, if it was a situation where, you know, they probably didn''t know that they could get any type of a reasonable accommodation. And the business itself their management practices were probably not the best in the world. Is there a way that the person with the disability can get an accommodation or would that be an after the fact type situation.
Right. If the person has not disclosed that they have a disability at all, the employer is perfectly within their rights to follow whatever standards they have and have applied to other employees. In that situation, someone would probably not really have much recourse. The issue about educating people with psychiatric disabilities about what some of their rights under the law and how to request accommodations is an important one. In fact we have a web site that is available for consumers, people with mental illnesses, who are in work or school situations that provides a lot of information on that. What are accommodations, what are examples of things that you could ask for. There is also a discussion group that people with psychiatric disabilities can participate in and support one another and provide information to one another about those things. The Lauren Gates and Sheila Acabus study showed people need to have skills in how to ask for accommodations, what the condition is, how it limits or impacts their work performance and what accommodations they think might be helpful. The more clear people are in doing that, the better the employment outcome is when that happens. Rehabilitation programs, I think, can start providing some education to people about the ADA, accommodations that are effective. After the fact it is often a little bit too late especially if they have not disclosed.
Right. In that situation I would refer people back to the EEOC guidance on reasonable accommodation. Much of the responsibility is put on the employee to come forward ahead of time and not after the fact, you are kind of putting yourself in a position there. Thank you for your question. At this time I am going to turn it back to you Kim for brief closing comments. I would like to direct people to our June 19 session, we are going to have David Fram back, he joined us about a year ago talking about the definition of disability and he is going to come back for the June 19 session and talk about documentation of disability. This becomes an essential issue for employers, especially once a person has come forward to say "okay, I have a disability, I need an accommodation." What exactly can the employer ask for as far as support of documentation to show that yes, this person does have a disability and is therefore entitled to an ADA accommodation. So I would encourage people to look for information on that June 19 session on the Great Lakes web site. Kim, thanks for joining us today. If you have a brief closing comments for us.
You are welcome. I hadn''t prepared any, but I think in general the idea is the more flexible the supervisor is, and the more you follow good management practices, the less likely you are going to run into problems supervising employees with psychiatric disabilities. And in general, often their needs are similar to needs that we all have. So that would probably be my last point.
Great. Thanks so much again for joining us. Again I would encourage people to go back to the Great Lakes web site www.adagreatlakes.org where they can link to the resources that Kim has referred to. Our upcoming session for April is do we complain, mediate, file suit? This is all about unraveling the ADA resolution options. We will have Peter Maida from the Key Bridge Foundation talking about the mediation program they have and Barry Taylor, from Equip for Equality, the protection and advocacy organization of Illinois talking about the different options for litigation, negotiation and the use of state law for civil rights protection. We hope to have you back for the next session. If you have more questions, please do contact your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center at 800-949-4232. We hope have you back for our next session. Thanks so much for joining us today.