At the core of every employment relationship is the expectation that the employee will perform the job satisfactorily.

But what happens to those performance expectations when an employee has a disability?

As the federal government has acknowledged, The Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits “employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, generally do[es] not

Updating Office Practices

impinge on the right of employers to define jobs and to evaluate their employees according to consistently applied standards governing performance and conduct.”

Simple enough, right?

Not exactly.  There are still issues that arise “such as what steps are appropriate where a disability is causing – or seems to be causing – a performance or conduct problem, when a request for accommodation should be made, and when an employer can properly raise the issue of an employee’s disability as part of a discussion about performance or conduct problems. Even when the disability is not causing the performance or conduct problem, some employers still have questions about what action they can take in light of concerns about potential ADA violations.”

Fortunately, the EEOC has some little-known guidance on this issue.  I recently came across it again and, for human resource professionals and business owners, it’s worth taking a look at.

It won’t answer all the questions out there (and employers should still seek legal guidance on these types of issues), but it addresses some common questions such as:

  • If an employer gives a lower performance rating to an employee and the employee responds by revealing she has a disability that is causing the performance problem, may the employer still give the lower rating?
  • What should an employer do if an employee requests an accommodation for the first time in response to counseling or a low performance rating?
  • May an employer require an employee to receive or change treatment for a disability to comply with a conduct standard?

Last modified this year, “The Americans With Disabilities Act: Applying Performance And Conduct Standards To Employees With Disabilities” is one document that is worth reading.