The ADA Interactive Process

April 16, 2019

Most employers are well aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and similar state laws, require employers to engage in the “interactive process” when an employee requests a disability accommodation. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the employer and the individual requesting an accommodation “must communicate with each other about the precise nature of the problem that is generating the request, how a disability is prompting a need for an accommodation, and alternative accommodations that may be effective in meeting an individual’s needs.” As this guidance explains, communication is the cornerstone of the interactive process, and should involve a specific discussion of alternative options in the event the requested accommodation cannot be made. While it is technically the employee’s burden to do so in the form of requesting an accommodation,according to the EEOC, an employer should initiate the interactive process without being asked if the employer: knows that the employee has a disability; knows, or has reason to know, that the employee is experiencing workplace problems because of the disability; and knows, or has reason to know, that the disability prevents the employee from requesting a reasonable accommodation. Before denying an accommodation request by a disabled employee, we recommend all employers contact SESCO to ensure compliance with the ADA.