Best human resources practices for writing and enforcing policies in the workplace.

How is social media affecting your workplace? Put a policy in place

By now you have probably heard about the infamous 2017 Oscars flub in which the movie “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as the Best Picture winner.  It has been speculated that this mishap could have happened because the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) employee responsible for handing the correct envelope to the presenters was distracted due to posting on the microblogging website Twitter.

This has caused many to question the quality of of the firm’s work, despite their longstanding reputation and name recognition.  Perhaps, it left you wondering how social media could be impacting your business.  There are several reasons to implement a social media policy if you have not already done so:

  • Establishes Rules: A social media policy allows you to define what is considered confidential information that cannot be shared.  The policy should also make it clear to employees what you consider appropriate or inappropriate behavior and the consequences for not following the guidelines.
  • Manages Employee Distractions and Productivity: Social media can be a distraction for employees; in a recent study, 30 percent of employees admitted that they spend one hour or more visiting social media sites. A social media policy would explain whether or not employees are permitted to use company property to access social media, when this is allowed and for what length of time.  Finally, the policy should also describe if and when employees can use personal devices throughout the day.
  • Protects Your Firm: Allowing employees to use social media on company issued computers and other devices puts the firm at risk for malware.  Malware could allow hackers to enter the company network and place viruses in it.

As a reminder, the National Labor Relations Board says that your social media policy cannot prohibit employees from discussing their working conditions.  BCN Services can assist you in drafting and implementing a strong and legally compliant social media policy that reflects your company values and goals.  If you need assistance in creating a policy, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.


Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Trump’s Executive Order, immigration, and the how it affects employers

On Friday, January 27, 2017, US President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

The Executive Order does the following:

  • Suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days.
  • Bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
  • Blocks entry into the US for 90 days (until 4/27/17) for individuals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. The ban applies to individuals with both visitor visas (B-1/B-2) and work visas (H-1B, L-1, O-1).

Naturalized U.S. citizens from the seven designated countries, as well as permanent residents with Green Cards will not be banned from entering the U.S.  Individuals who are not citizens of the designated countries but are residents of, or have strong ties to any of the countries, will be banned from entering the US.  This includes citizens of the designated countries who hold dual-citizenship with another country.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also been ordered to suspend processing of all immigration benefit applications filed by or on behalf of nationals of the seven countries.

Wide-ranging implications for Employers

This order has wide-ranging implications for employers who employ Visa or Green Card holders from one of the designated countries.  While a small number of Visas are exempt from the executive order (including diplomatic Visas, North Atlantic Treaty Org. Visas, C-2 Visas, and G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 Visas), most Visas, including the common H1-B, L-1, and F-1 Visas, are covered by the order.

Employees from one of the designated countries who hold Visas covered included in the order will likely have difficulty entering/re-entering the U.S. while the order is in effect. Though not technically included in the order, Green Card holders may be subject to heightened scrutiny when re-entering the country.

Suggested Employer actions:

  • Cancel international travel for at least 90 days by employees or individuals doing business with your company who will be subject to the travel ban
  • Identify pending requests for immigration benefits on behalf of individuals from one of the designated countries in order to assess the implications of the apparent suspension in the processing of those petitions or applications
  • Prepare for potential disruption with service providers whose employees may be impacted by the EO

Remember your legal obligations

Be aware that federal employment laws still prohibit discrimination based on national origin, religion, and citizenship status. Be careful about taking action based on the President’s executive order that may be perceived as averse to current employees located in the U.S.  Employers should not ask for additional documentation from employees who may be affected by the President’s order (unless it’s regarding a Visa status close to expiring), as doing so may be cited as evidence of citizenship discrimination.

Be sensitive to possible claims of harassment or discrimination in the workplace that might arise from heightened tensions between employees or as a result of affected employees feeling targeted or singled out.

Expect Further Developments

President Trump’s order provides for additional countries to be added to the list of those with prohibited entry and provides that a Presidential proclamation will be issued in the near future prohibiting the entry of foreign nationals from a list of specified countries.

At the same time, further legal challenges to the order are anticipated and additional guidance and clarifications are expected. In addition, a draft Executive Order is under consideration that would subject the H1-B program and other immigration policies and procedures to further review.

BCN Services will stay abreast of additional information about this Executive Order and others to come and will help your business interpret any federal rules, policies and legislation. Contact us if we can answer questions or offer additional guidance.

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Thomas Moore, Partnership Manager

HR areas likely impacted with results of recent General Election

It has been just over a month since the historic November General Election.  The results, a Republican president-elect and Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, signal that a lot of changes will be coming to Human Resources laws and regulations, affecting both employers and employees.

Here are a few of the areas that may see significant changes soon:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) – President-Elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal and replace the ACA within his first 100 days in office. While experts do not believe the Act will be totally repealed, it is likely that Republican legislators will negotiate with fellow Democrats and recommend a change to the law and get the required 60 Senate votes to pass it.  Some of the current law provisions targeted for change include:
    • The Employer Mandate (organizations with 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents must provide ACA-compliant health care coverage to employees averaging at least 30 hours per week) and
    • The Cadillac Tax (40-percent excise tax on employer-sponsored health-care coverage that exceeds pre-defined benefit thresholds). Trump also supports increasing the flexibility of Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.
  • Immigration Reform – The centerpiece of the Trump campaign was immigration reform and control. Experts believe that employers may see many changes as a result of this initiative, including:
    • increased audits of Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9,
    • required use of an E-Verify system (comparing employee information on an I-9 to federal records) and
    • changes to the H-1B Visa program for non-immigrants, in which non-U.S. workers are employed in specialty occupations.
  • Maternity Leave – During his campaign, Trump outlined a plan that would guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers after childbirth paid for through savings in the unemployment insurance program. This proposed policy would not offer benefits to fathers or parents of adopted children.

BCN Services will keep you up-to-date as changes unfold.  If you have additional questions, contact your Human Resources Representative at 1-800-891-9911.


Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Though not federally mandated, give employees time to cast their ballots

Most people are aware that U.S. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8 in 2016.  With the presidential election taking place this year, voters may wait in long lines in order to cast a ballot.

Many employers are fielding questions from employees about whether they will be able to miss time from work to vote.  As an employer, it’s important to understand what’s required of your company when it comes to the voting rights of your employees.

Federal law does not mandate time off to vote.  Many states do have laws about allowing employees time off to exercise their right to vote.  These can include allowing employees time away from work  –  up to several hours of their working day in some cases  –  to be spent at the polls.  Some states even require that the time off of work to vote be paid for non-exempt employees.  (Exempt employees should be paid.)

The state of Michigan is an example of a state that does not have specific laws about allowing your employees to vote.  It’s important to know the laws of your state to ensure that you are providing them the opportunities that your state affords.  Although it is not a compliance issue  , it’s good employment practice to make sure your employees have the opportunity to vote without being penalized if their regular work schedule doesn’t allow sufficient time to vote, regardless of the laws in your state. Remember that, as an employer, you should never attempt to influence employees’ votes or their decision-making process.

Call the experts at BCN if you have questions about the laws of your specific state related to employee rights and voting, or if you want to discuss an employment policy regarding this issue. We are here to help.


Trisha Crigger, HR Generalist


PokémonGO in the workplace: Concerns and benefits

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about the “Pokémon GO” craze that is sweeping the world.  That would be the free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game where players use a mobile device’s GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures called Pokémon.  With more than 7.5 million users, it has surpassed Twitter as the most popular mobile app.  With that kind of recognition, you are probably wondering what kind of impact its having on your employees’ productivity.

When it comes to employee cell phone usage at work and mobile apps and games, we suggest the following general guidelines:

  • Review your handbook policies to ensure they have statements regarding acceptable and unacceptable employee social media networking and gaming during work hours.
  • Additionally, if employees operate vehicles while on company time, make sure you have a policy on distracted driving and offer training on safe driving practices.  Recently in  Japan, a 39-year-old farmer driving a truck struck and killed one pedestrian and severely injured another while he was playing the game.
  • Finally, if employees have company issued cell phones, work with your IT professionals to limit the download and data usage capabilities and reinforce your definition of acceptable personal use of these devices.
  • Train managers on how to handle the situation if they catch an employee violating work rules while playing the game.  As always, stress the importance of consistency in reprimands for this sort of issue.

This particular game phenomenon does have benefits.  Used in moderation, it can foster a culture of teamwork, motivation and social interaction as players can select a color to play for and, once selected, players with the same color can team up to conquer a Pokémon  Gym together.  In addition, the game requires players to be active; it even rewards players for walking certain distances.  This is good not only for physical health, but mental health as well.

If you think “PokémonGO” may be a problem in your workplace or if you’re looking for a creative way to incorporate the game into daily teamwork activities; give BCN Services a call at 1-800-891-9911.


Alicia Freeman, New Product and Payroll Manager


Aiming for a Diverse Workforce: Non-Discriminatory Recruiting

Managers are charged with maintaining appropriate staffing levels, which includes both retention and recruiting.  As a manager, you may have well-established processes that keep your facility staffed well and running smoothly.  But it’s important to evaluate those processes to ensure they are meeting your recruiting needs, including the need to recruit in an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner.

Diversity is great for business in many ways.  Non-discriminatory hiring practices are critical not only to hiring a diverse workforce that will provide a competitive advantage, but also to keeping the company out of costly legal trouble.  If not applied properly, some of your practices could have a negative impact on your ability to hire diverse candidates, even though that’s not the intent.

Following are tips to consider as you review  your selection process, being sure to give all qualified candidates a fair opportunity to compete for your positions:

Creating a job posting: A job posting should be based on requirements needed for a candidate to be able to succeed in that position.  Do not include anything that does not meet that criteria.  For example, the ability to read English may be convenient if you prefer to leave written work instructions, but it probably shouldn’t be a requirement for a dish washing position.

Where you advertise open positions:  Advertise to give qualified candidates of various groups equal opportunity to apply.  Make sure the advertising vehicle you use has a diverse audience.  If you have a certain media outlet or website you prefer but it has a narrow audience, broaden your advertising to more than one outlet to ensure a pool of well-qualified, diverse candidates.  Most outlets can share information about their audience demographics.

Employee referrals are often the best recruitment tool, but if your workforce isn’t as diverse as your community, using only these referrals may eliminate important opportunities for you to expand your diversity and bring in excellent candidates.

If networking is your primary recruiting tool, make efforts to ensure that you are networking in circles that represent the local diversity, rather than just a part of it.

How applications are accepted:  Make sure your application process allows a person to get to the job site location where the work would be performed.  For example, if you have multiple locations and require in-person applications but applicants must apply at a location off the bus line, you may eliminate potential employees that use bus transportation to get to work.  This can apply to interview sites as well.

The interview: Be sure the interview process is inclusive.  Ask all candidates the same, or essentially the same, questions relevant to the ability to successfully perform in the position. Allow all candidates time to answer the questions.

Applicant testing: Make sure any tests used in the hiring process consistently measure the candidates’ ability to do the job.  Sometimes the test content, or the way a test is administered, eliminates candidates of a particular protected class in ways you don’t expect. It’s important to know that your test isn’t going to do that.  Ask the testing vendor to show you statistically that the test you are considering predicts what you are expecting and that it doesn’t eliminate specific, protected groups.

Making a selection: Once all potential candidates are interviewed and tested (if you’re using testing), select candidates based on knowledge, skills and abilities, rather than their appearance or other non-work-related characteristic. There’s a lot of talk about how candidates “fit” with the company’s culture.  That’s important but as a manager, remember that you impact how an employee fits by creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion.  Your example sets the tone, and making inclusive hiring decisions based on an solid hiring process is one of the many ways you can model inclusion for all employees.

Call BCN Services for help about hiring in a non-discriminatory manner as well as for other HR needs.



Trisha Crigger, HR Generalist

How to compete and attract the best talent for your company

Throughout my 15 years in the Professional Employer Organization (PEO) industry with BCN Services, one of the most common questions I am asked when it comes to attracting talent is “What is everyone else doing?”  Employers look to BCN Services to help them stay competitive as they look to hire the best in their industry.  Whether the client is established or a new business, the question inevitably comes up:  How do I keep in pace with my competitor down the street? 

When clients ask this, it is typically in relation to benefits, specifically health coverage.  With medical costs skyrocketing, and coverage declining, job applicants are looking for companies that have a competitive health plan that will offer the security of comprehensive medical coverage.  So here are my thoughts based on my experience with client companies over the years, Health care reform has helped to define the value of a plan more clearly.  The Affordable Care Act defines the value of health plans based on their “metal band” status ranging from Bronze level as the minimum coverage deemed “affordable” for comprehensive coverage to Platinum offering the highest level of coverage, but in correlation, at the highest price. 

We’re seeing a standard practice evolving of Gold plans, typically with $1,000 single, $2,000 family deductibles becoming the norm.  Co-insurance of 20 percent may be applied, but typically with a cap of around an additional $2,500 for a single person or $5,000 family coverage.  In my experience, this type of plan design is the “new normal.”  Gone are the days when “deductibles” and “co-insurance” were not a part of the vocabulary in discussing health plan option.

The next question is “How much are other companies paying towards the plan?”  The trend still seems to be holding strong that most employers are contributing heavily towards their employees’ coverage.  Based on personal experience, I see employers contributing an average of 70 percent of the premium for their employees’ coverage.  But we see a decline in dependent coverage.  It is rare for an employer to cover dependents at the same level as employees.  Typically, dependent coverage will drop to approximately 50 percent or less of the total monthly premium. 

No contribution toward a dependent premium will make you uncompetitive.  Some employers have cut out dependent coverage contributions, but that would not be advisable if you want to attract top talent.  The best employees want to cover their entire family without seeing a substantial part of their paycheck reduced by medical plan premiums.  Gold plan family premiums can average between $1,500 and $2,200 per month, depending on the carrier and company location.  Employers covering at least 50 percent of this premium leave the employee with a manageable pre-tax deduction reducing their monthly net pay by $500-$700. 

Some employers are opting not to offer any medical coverage at all, and directing employees to the federal Healthcare Marketplace at  While this may be a viable solution for some industries, it is definitely not the norm.  Since the ACA was implemented, I have yet to see a client drop group medical plans for the Marketplace solution.  Marketplace plans tend to have higher deductibles and out-of-pocket limits, and tend to be more expensive than group health plans. 

While some employees may benefit from a federal government subsidy, the majority will not qualify based on their earnings.  One of the quickest ways to lose talent is to not offer a health plan.  Understandably, start-up companies may not have a health plan in their budget.  They may have made concessions with employees with the understanding that a health plan option would be coming inthe future.  But established companies typically will put themselves at a disadvantage by eliminating or not offering a group health plan. 

As always, BCN Services is your partner in business making it our priority to help you gain and retain top talent.  Our Partnership Management team is licensed by the State of Michigan to be able to explore all options with you, our client.  We also partner with agents throughout the country for clients outside of Michigan, and will work hand-in-hand with them to offer the best options.  No matter what your industry, or where you are located, we will be able to advise you to keep you competitive. 




Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager








More on the ADA: Be sure policies address workplace accommodations (Part 4 of 4)

Many employers are familiar with the terms “restriction” and “accommodation” especially as it relates to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)  Many have become familiar with some accommodating practices, such as offering an individual in a job where standing is required a chair or stool.

Other common accommodations include weight-lifting restrictions for someone with back problems or work breaks to check blood glucose levels, eat a snack, or take medication for a employee with diabetes.

But some employers should take note that some of their accommodation practices may be out of date.

Sears, Roebuck & Company paid $6.2 million to settle a case which alleged that Sears maintained inflexible workers’ compensation leave and accommodation policies.  The settlement required Sears to amend its workers’ compensation leave policy and provide training to its employees regarding the ADA.

Employers should check their current policies and practices to ensure that:

  • All requests for accommodations are reviewed with Human Resources.  It is no longer acceptable to refuse an employee’s request for restricted work based only on the fact that the condition is not work related.
  • An individual’s employment is not terminated based on that employee being leave for a specific amount of time.  Sometimes a reasonable accommodation may extend an employee’s leave of absence.
  • Supervisors and managers are engaging in an interactive process with employees requesting accommodation.  (See last week’s blog installment:

Employers should not lose heart in considering accommodations.  Regardless of an employee’s restrictions/accommodation request, employers don’t have to comply with all requests.  And employees are still required to fulfill the essential functions of their assigned job.

As always, for help in navigating the compliance heavy waters of workers’ compensation and ADA regulations, and setting compliant policies, contact the professionals at BCN Services.


Sue Kester, HR Manager

Employers and employees working together under ADA guidelines (Part 3 of 4)

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has been a topic of discussion for HR professionals since it was implemented in 1990. Initially, the act did not give clear guidelines, but included information about expectations for employers and employees working together to create accommodations for employees when necessary

The original act left employers with a lot of questions and we are now receiving clarification on key points. One of the expectations when accommodations are needed, is that it be an interactive process.  This means that the employee and the employer must work together, establishing the best approach that doesn’t put undue hardship on the employer and allows the employee to maintain an active employment status with the company.

For the interactive process to be successful, both employee and employer should be open to varied ideas and be willing to work together. Managers may need training in this area as to what are acceptable and not acceptable questions regarding accommodations.

Sometimes the employee has an idea about how they want to be accommodated, but this may not be reasonable for the employer. For example, an employee may want to work from home, but the employer does not have employees that telecommute or the essential job functions cannot be done from home. This would not be a reasonable request.  If an employee makes such a request, it is always appropriate for the manager to offer other suggestions. We recommend that employers be open to ideas and, if the accommodation is not available, be willing to explain why their request can’t be handled in that way.

Employees may not always know what accommodations are available to them. Sometimes accommodations require a little bit of creativity, like allowing space for an employee to do stretching for an injured back, or bringing in a freezer to keep ice packs cold. For this to happen however, the employee needs to provide information about why they can’t perform certain job duties. One suggestion is that the employee fill out a “request for reasonable accommodation.”  This type of request needs to include information about the impairment and how it impacts the employee’s ability to perform and what the employer may be able to do to help. A request like this is a great way to start the interactive process between employee and employer.

Every ADA situation will be different and it is important for both employee and the employer to maintain good communication throughout the process.. Employers should carefully consider every request and employees must notify their employer as soon as a need arises.

BCN Services is prepared to assist in the entire ADA process and encourage our clients to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. Please see the following case studies for examples of how ADA decisions have affected other employers:

ADA Case studies from

Marytza Golden v. Indianapolis Housing Agency

Marytza Golden alleges that Indianapolis Housing Agency (“IHA”) violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (“Section 504”), when IHA denied her request for additional, unpaid leave to complete her cancer treatment and terminated her upon expiration of 16 weeks of medical leave (including 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave).  IHA maintains that, under its medical leave policy, it is proper to terminate all employees who are unable to return to work after taking 16 weeks of medical leave regardless of whether an employee may need additional leave because of a disability.  IHA also maintains that, because Ms. Golden was unable to perform the essential functions of her job at the end of 16 weeks of leave, she was no longer “qualified” for the position and termination was permissible.

The United States respectfully submits this Statement of Interest to clarify the proper interpretation of Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) with respect to an employer’s obligation to consider a request for additional, unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation and its obligation to evaluate whether an employee who seeks an accommodation is qualified.

The United States files this brief to help clarify the appropriate standard to determine whether Ms. Golden is a qualified individual with a disability entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the law.  The appropriate standard is to assess whether Ms. Golden is able to perform the essential functions of the job as of the end of the requested leave period that is found to be a reasonable accommodation—not during the time period she was on disability-related leave.

Settlement agreement between the United States and 360 Credit Union

  1. The United States initiated its investigation of THE CREDIT UNION after receiving a complaint made by an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing. The complainant alleged that THE CREDIT UNION is in violation of title III of the ADA because it maintains a policy against accepting third party calls, including relay calls.
  2. The United States has concluded that THE CREDIT UNION violated title III of the ADA. THE CREDIT UNION denies that it violated title III of the ADA or any other law.
  3. The Attorney General of the United States is authorized to enforce title III of the ADA by seeking monetary relief for aggrieved persons, civil penalties, and full compliance with title III’s provisions, such as requiring public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures and provide auxiliary aids and services, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b); 28 C.F.R. § 36.504. The Attorney General may commence a civil action to enforce title III in any situation where he has reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of discrimination exists or a matter of general public importance is raised. 42 U.S.C. §
  4. Title III of the ADA and the title III implementing regulation prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations. 42 U.S.C. § 12182; 28 C.F.R. § 36.201. Specifically, title III requires public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.303. Title III also requires public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a).

Kari Stanley, HR Generalist

Employer Responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Part 2 of 4)

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that when determining an ADA disability, an employer must consider whether the person is substantially limited in performing a major life activity when using a mitigating measure.

A mitigating measure could be, for example, an employee’s medication to alleviate the effects of an impairment.

This means that if a person has little or no difficulty performing any major life activity because he/she uses a mitigating measure, then that person will not meet the Americans With Disabilities first definition of “disability.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, whether a person has an ADA disability is determined by taking into account the positive and negative effects of mitigating measures used by the individual.

The ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability in all employment practices such as:  recruitment, pay, hiring, firing, promotion, job assignments, training, leave, lay-off, benefits, all other employment related activities.  The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications.  An employer may not retaliate against an applicant or employee for asserting his/her rights under the ADA.  The Act also makes it unlawful to discriminate against an applicant or employee, whether disabled or not, because of the individual’s family, business, social or other relationship or association with an individual with a disability.

What are Essential Functions?

Essential functions are basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation.  Carefully examine each job to determine which ones are essential to performance.  This is particularly important before taking an employment action such as recruiting, advertising, hiring, promoting or firing.

Factors to consider in determining if a function is essential include:

  • Does the position exist to perform that function?
  • How many other employees are available to perform the function (or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed)?
  • What is the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function?

Your judgment as to which functions are essential and a written job description prepared before advertising or interviewing for a job will be considered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as evidence of essential functions.  Other kinds of evidence the EEOC will consider include:

  • The actual work experience of present or past employees in the job,
  • The time spent performing a function,
  • The consequences of not requiring that an employee perform a function, and
  • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

An Employer is obligated to provide reasonable accommodations

Reasonable accommodation means any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities.

Examples may include:  acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies, providing readers and interpreters and making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodation must also be made so that an individual with a disability may participate in the application process and enjoy benefits and privileges equal to those of other employees.

An employer that fails to provide reasonable accommodation to a known physical or mental limitation of a qualified individual with a disability is violating the ADA, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of your business.  Undue hardship means that an accommodation would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial or disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

How to identify a reasonable accommodation

Many times, when a qualified individual with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation, the appropriate accommodation is apparent.  When it is not apparent, the employer must make a reasonable effort to identify one.  The best way to do this is to consult informally with the applicant or employee about potential accommodations that would enable the individual to participate in the application process or perform the essential functions of the job.

Reasonable accommodations and undue hardship

A reasonable accommodation is not required if doing so would cause an undue hardship. Factors to consider are the cost of accommodation, the employer size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.

If there is an undue hardship, try to identify another accommodation option.  If cost is the undue hardship, consider whether funding is available from an outside source, such as a vocational rehabilitation agency, and whether the cost can be offset by state or federal tax credits or deductions.  You must also give the applicant or employee with a disability the opportunity to provide the accommodation or pay for the portion of the accommodation that constitutes an undue hardship.

Other things to consider

You can ask an applicant questions about his or her ability to perform job-related functions as long as the questions are not phrased in terms of a disability.  You can also ask an applicant to describe, or to demonstrate how, the applicant will perform job-related functions with or without reasonable accommodation.

After a job offer is made and prior to employment  start, you may require an applicant to take a medical examination if others working in the job category must also take the examination.

Once you have hired an applicant, you cannot require a medical examination or ask an employee questions about disability unless you can show these requirements are job related and necessary for the conduct of your business.  Results of all medical examinations or information from inquiries about disability must be kept confidential, and maintained in a separate medical file.

Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager