Persons with Known Disabilities
The ADA allows employers to hold all employees to the same workplace productivity standards, as long as these standards are a fair measure of the core functions of the job. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with a disability:
The term “qualified individual with a disability” means an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.… Consideration shall be given to the employer’s judgment as to what functions of a job are essential, and if an employer has prepared a written description before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job, this description shall be considered evidence of the essential functions of the job.
The term “reasonable accommodation” may include the following:
making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and
job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
The occupational medicine physician, in consultation with appropriate experts and the employee, determines the appropriate accommodation. The employer must then decide if the person is otherwise qualified. Can the employee do the job with the accommodation, and is the accommodation reasonable? These decisions are legally contentious because they reflect economic and policy questions about the workplace. For example, is it reasonable to employ a sign- language interpreter for a manual laborer when the cost of the interpreter may double the cost of employing the laborer? Although the employer may consult with the occupational medicine physician about the accommodation, the physician should avoid making the determination of reasonability. Making such decisions will impair the neutrality that the ADA seeks to preserve for the examining physician.