The Interactive Process
Hosting and conducting an Interactive Process Meeting has become essential when exploring the issue of Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA. And,in California, pursuant to the FEHA, a good faith effort must be instituted in order to explore modified or alternative employment in the workplace.
In doing so, there are many benefits, as follows:
* compliance with regulations
* demonstration of assisting the injured worker or employee in performing their job
* promoting a spirit of interest in health, safety and the welfare of employees
* enabling workers to remain in the workplace
* assisting the worker in continuing to be a productive member of society
When arranging an Interactive Process Meeting, the worker is invited to participate in the meeting. At the onset, they are informed the intent of the meeting is to help them and is not to be viewed as punitive in any manner. They are informed their input is essential and they are asked if they have any suggestions for the type of accommodation they are needing. It has been my experience that it takes a while for the injured worker to open up and provide their ideas for where their areas of challenge are and exactly how they need accommodation.
Typically, these meetings have consisted of myself as the facilitator, the injured worker, the risk manager or human resource manager and the supervisor. I have facilitated several where the applicant attorney and defense attorney were also present and,on one occasion, a Unon representative.
I introduce myself as an objective party who has been requested to facilitate the meeting on behalf of the employer or the workers compensation carrier. I then review the physical limitations specified by the doctor.
We then review the essential job functions of the position and discuss ideas for accomplishing the same task in a less strenuous or physically demanding manner. Some recent strategies and innovations have included:
* installing an s-hook in an inventory closet at eye level to avoid the need to look down and cause neck strain from writing on a clipboard.
* purchasing a narrower chair with wheels that will easily transverse on a carpeted surface, to enable a teacher to push the chair up to the student's desks, per the school policy
* giving a walkie-talkie to a classroom teacher responsible for yard duty so they can call for back-up assistance from the office, in the event of an emergency
* determining that a walk-in cooler will be propped open briefly while the worker puts supplies inside, thus assisting them in coping with an anxiety concern.
* changing the type of mouse and providing a gel wrist pad to reduce the pressure on a worker's wrist and surgery area.
* changing the font to a larger size on the computer screen while the worker is word processing, so they can remain in a chair with back support without having to lean forward to read documents
Subsequent to conducting the Interactive Process Meeting, a written summary is prepared and forwarded to the parties, outlining the discussions that took place and the strategies and recommendations implemented.
The person who is performing the position, when giving the opportunity, can offer a wealth of ideas once they feel supported in the Interactive Process Meeting, in how they can be accommodated and continue to provide for themselves and their family.
Though simple, these ideas can make the difference between someone remaining in the workplace, sharing their expertise and experience and continuing to be a productive society member.
There is then a positive outcome for the employee, employer and the workers compensation carrier, all of whom are working in a united effort to help people work safer, work smarter.
Author, consultant and educator Jamie Charter has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employer resource consultants in Soquel, California.
Contact Jamie at: [email protected]
Jamie Charter, consultant, trainer and author, has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employment resource consultants in Soquel, California. Areas of specialization include development and implementation of disability management programs, case management, EEOC/FEHA/ADA consultation, return-to-work facilitation, CalPers job description services, job analyses, conducting training seminars for employer groups on sexual harassment prevention and discrimination and litigation /expert witness services in Forensics.