Ergonomic Keyboard

After 3 months as a temp employee through a staffing agency, we have placed this employee on our payroll.  Within three days of being placed on our payroll, he has now stated that he requires a keyboard tray and an ergonomic keyboard for his work station.  He made no mention of this while working here during his first 3 months.  Am I required to provide, no questions asked or can I ask the reason for his request, a note from his doctor stating he needs a special keyboard, etc?


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  • I would require a doctor fill out documentation as if he had put you on notice of an ADA reasonable accommodation.  The law requires an interactive process of the employee giving the employer medical information and together finding a reasonable accommodation. That accommodation is not always exactly what the employee has requested though. Nor does the doctor's note of what he/she suggests become requirements.

    If you Google "EEOC ADA reasonable accommodation" there is a really good article there to read through.  It's a really good article that I reference often when I get into any ADA potential situation. 

     One statement in it is  'While an individual with a disability may request a change due to a medical condition, this request does not necessarily mean that the employer is required to provide the change. A request for reasonable accommodation is the first step in an informal, interactive process between the individual and the employer. In some instances, before addressing the merits of the accommodation request, the employer needs to determine if the individual's medical condition meets the ADA definition of "disability,"a prerequisite for the individual to be entitled to a reasonable accommodation."

    it goes on to state: "An employer may choose to write a memorandum or letter confirming the individual's request. Alternatively, an employer may ask the individual to fill out a form or submit the request in written form, but the employer cannot ignore the initial request. An employer also may request reasonable documentation that the individual has an ADA disability and needs a reasonable accommodation"  and "When the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability and functional limitations. The employer is entitled to know that the individual has a covered disability for which s/he needs a reasonable accommodation."

    last but not least:

    "Reasonable documentation means that the employer may require only the documentation that is needed to establish that a person has an ADA disability, and that the disability necessitates a reasonable accommodation. Thus, an employer, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation, cannot ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining the existence of a disability and the necessity for an accommodation. This means that in most situations an employer cannot request a person's complete medical records because they are likely to contain information unrelated to the disability at issue and the need for accommodation. If an individual has more than one disability, an employer can request information pertaining only to the disability that requires a reasonable accommodation.

    An employer may require that the documentation about the disability and the functional limitations come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. The appropriate professional in any particular situation will depend on the disability and the type of functional limitation it imposes. Appropriate professionals include, but are not limited to, doctors (including psychiatrists), psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals.

    In requesting documentation, employers should specify what types of information they are seeking regarding the disability, its functional limitations, and the need for reasonable accommodation. The individual can be asked to sign a limited release allowing the employer to submit a list of specific questions to the health care or vocational professional.

    As an alternative to requesting documentation, an employer may simply discuss with the person the nature of his/her disability and functional limitations. It would be useful for the employer to make clear to the individual why it is requesting information, i.e., to verify the existence of an ADA disability and the need for a reasonable accommodation."

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful information! 
  • I would also add that sometimes, if an accommodation is relatively cheap and simple to provide, it may make sense to just go ahead and do it--far better to just go out and buy, say, a $20 lamp than spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars in HR time, effort, hassle, etc. chasing down all the paperwork.

    This approach will not make sense in all or even most cases, of course, but it's something to consider when the requested accommodation is fairly minimal.

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