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ADA: Reasonable Accommodation/Interactive Process

In the interactive process—a discussion about an applicant's or employee's disability--the applicant or employee, health care provider and employer each share information about the nature of the disability and the limitations that may affect his or her ability to perform the essential job duties. This discussion is the foundation of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The employer should:

** Review the accommodation request from the employee or his or her health care provider. While the ADA does not require the request to be put in writing, having documentation of the request is a good practice.

** Obtain written medical release or permission from the employee. The employee's health care provider may not disclose information or answer questions about the employee's disability without the employee's permission.

** Ask the employee to provide appropriate documentation from the employee's health care or rehabilitation professional regarding the nature of the impairment, its severity, the duration, the activities limited by the impairment(s) and the extent to which the impairment(s) limits the employee's ability to perform the job's essential duties/functions.

Nuances Of The Interactive Process In Your Mandatory Vaccination Program
Fox Rothschild | Aug 2021

Related: Fully Vaccinated Workers May Need COVID-19-Related Accommodations
SHRM | Jun 2021

SHRM Resources

Article How to Create a Robust Reasonable Accommodation Process

How-to-Guide How to Handle an Employee's Request for Accommodation

Toolkit Accommodating Employees' Disabilities

Checklist Reasonable Accommodation

Sample Medical Inquiry Form for ADA Accommodation

Sample ADA Accommodation Denial Letter

Article  ADA's Interactive Process Is a Two-Way Street

Additional Resources

The Interactive Process
Job Accommodation Network

Reasonable Accommodation
UC Berkeley

Law Firm Articles

Eighth Circuit Insight into Handling Requests for Reasonable Accommodations under the ADA
Bradley | Dec 2022

In order to determine the appropriate reasonable accommodation, employers and employees must engage in the interactive process, which requires communication and good-faith exploration of possible accommodations. An employer that acts in bad faith in the interactive process may be liable if it can be reasonably concluded that the employee would have been able to perform the job with a reasonable accommodation. It's a two-way street: an employee must also make a good faith effort to comply with any of the employer's reasonable requests.
What Are the Employer's Obligations When Engaging in the ADA Interactive Process?
Bass Berry | Oct 2019

… beyond the obvious fact that engaging in an interactive process helps employers to discover and provide reasonable accommodations, in situations where an employer fails to provide a reasonable accommodation and later must defend that decision in court, evidence that the employer engaged in an interactive process can demonstrate a "good faith" effort, which can protect an employer from being hit with punitive and other damages.
So, What Exactly Is The Interactive Process?
Foley & Lardner | May 2019

Many employers would appreciate a clear road map when traveling the often winding roads of reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  However, there are no rigid routes for the interactive process.  After an employee requests an accommodation, the employer must engage in a good faith and flexible dialogue that addresses the employee's specific medical limitation, request, job position, and work environment, among other factors.
Ten Steps to Comply with the ADA's Interactive Process
Smith Amundsen | Mar 2019



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