Union Briefs

ADA in Unionized Workplaces: Tips for Front-line Managers

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Front-line managers who interact directly with employees are key in ensuring an organization's compliance with the ADA and inclusion of workers with disabilities. It is helpful for front-line managers to recognize that the ADA covers both obvious and non-visible disabilities and it is likely that there are more people with disabilities in the workplace than they realize. Also, front-line managers must be aware that employers cannot lawfully require an applicant to disclose a disability and should not make medical inquiries or medical examinations before making a job offer. Under the ADA, employees can request reasonable accommodations that modify a job or work environment to make it possible for that employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The employer must maintain confidentiality of medical documents, and can deny a reasonable an accommodation which presents an undue hardship; but must consider cost-effective alternatives. Identifying a reasonable accommodation is an interactive process between the employer and employee.

Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals with Disabilities Represented by a Union

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Employees who think they have a physical or mental disability that qualifies for protections under the ADA are encouraged to speak with their union representative or another neutral third party to receive guidance before disclosing to their employer. When requesting an accommodation in the workplace, though the employer has a right to request documentation of the employee's condition, the employee need only provide the information that will help identify a reasonable accommodation. If the employer threatens discharge or discipline because of a disability, the employee should contact the union immediately. Employees should involve their union representative in all situations regarding disability disclosure and discipline as it may have an impact on the collective bargaining unit and ensures the employer's obligation to uphold the standards under the ADA.

Unions and the ADA: Tips for Union Representatives

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Labor unions have a strong influence over health and safety initiatives of a company as well as legal compliance with the ADA. Unions can respond to the needs of members or other workers with disabilities by determining if their situation is being adversely affected by a disability and helping workers understand their legal rights and responsibilities under the ADA. The union can also advise the employee of the two conditions under which an employer may lawfully deny a specific accommodation request: when it presents an "undue hardship," or significant difficulty or expense; and when the individual poses a "direct threat," in which case the employer must look for a way to minimize the potential risk before refusing. If a worker has already been terminated because of a disability, unions should look for just cause and consult the collective bargaining agreement promptly.