Feature Article: At the Crossroads of Performance Management and Disability: Using the Right Tool for the Job

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At the Crossroads of Performance Management and Disability: Using the Right Tool for the Job

By Rachel Shaw

September 2023, @Work Magazine

Managing performance issues at work can be challenging, and many managers say it can be an emotional or painful process. It gets more difficult when an employee states the performance deficiencies are due to a disability. Frustration on the part of the supervisor often ensues. Sometimes when an employee makes this claim, a supervisor immediately sees the missing link with what has been occurring with the employee at work. But other times, the claim may sound like an excuse to shield the employee from being held accountable.

Whether this claim comes at the beginning or in the eleventh hour of counseling, the employer must pause discipline and begin the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) interactive process. It is during this process that the employer can confirm or deny whether a disability really did have an effect on the employee’s job performance.

Getting Started

The key to employing the interactive process in the face of disciplinary issues is twofold:

  • Pinpoint performance deficiencies or issues the employee attributes to the disability.
  • Obtain data from a healthcare provider to support and clarify the claim made by the employee.

Begin by having an open and honest conversation with the employee. Do not presume you know which performance issues are linked to a claimed disability (if there is more than one). If six performance areas are identified, have a conversation with the employee to understand which of these areas the employee believes have been affected by the disability. Any issues not attributed to a disability can continue to be managed using performance management tools.

Once the performance areas that the employee believes to be related to the disability have been identified, prepare and send a detailed medical questionnaire to the employee’s healthcare provider to understand:

  • if the employee has a disability that is covered by the ADA;
  • if so, whether the specific performance areas were affected by the disability; and
  • what underlining work restrictions or functional limitations caused the performance issues.

Learn how to customize medical questionnaire questions for performance issues related to disability and read the whole article here in the Member Portal.  Membership is free.

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