Collaborative Post: Work Restrictions and Accommodations


February 20, 2011

One of the great benefits of blogging for me has been collaborating and discussing ideas with you.  The ability to reach out to leaders in human resources, marketing, PR, finance, management, and many other fields makes all the time I spend writing worthwhile.  For that, I thank you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about work restrictions and accommodations lately and today, I’d like to get your opinion.  There are organizations that have the ability to return employees to work with restrictions and those that don’t.  And, there are so many situations where an employee may ask to have an accommodation made, whether it be following a FMLA leave, a non-qualified FMLA medical leave of absence, or as part of an ADA protected need.  While the laws are clear on how to handle the actual leaves and who qualifies, it is not as clear around the act of making an accommodation and how that decision can or should be made.

There are resources I use such as the Department of Labor site and the Job Accommodation Network.  What I’d like to hear is how your organization handles work accommodations that are not ADA related.  We’ll all be able to learn from the comments and will all be more well-informed.  I encourage you to write as much as you are comfortable sharing.

  • Following FMLA leave, does your organization require employees to have a release back to full-duty?  If not, what tools or techniques do you use to determine if a restriction can be accommodated?
  • How do you handle employees who are not on leave of any kind but are unable to perform all essential job duties (assuming they are not covered by the ADA)? What if they don’t ask for an accommodation but other employees do part of their work?

Thanks in advance for contributing!



  • Trish, most of my HR career has been with small to medium sized companies so my approach has been on a case by case basis. Also, because of that, I have not had that many cases to consider other than workers’ comp “light-duty” cases, which is a different kettle of fish for the most part.

    I have always relied on a medical documentation of any restrictions to a person’s ability to perform the essentials functions of a job. Then based on that, working with resources like you mentioned above along with discussions with the person’s supervisor. Most of the accomodations have been a relatively inexpensive remedy such as some ergonomic tools to simple ones like raising a desk with homemade blocks to accomodate a wheelchair.

    One thing I would point out is with the “non-ADA” accomodations. I have heard of such things being actually included under ADA under the perception of being disabled umbrella. Interesting post.

  • My comments are very similar to John’s. For the most part we have accomodated what we can, when we can. Depending upon the restricitions in some cases, I have been unable to accomodate the restrictions. The one underlying theme I have found is that most employeres tell their employees how important it is that they be at work, but yet because they need to sit down 5 minutes every hour or somehting, then they tell them you can’t work because of that restricition. That seems like talking out of both sides of you mouth.

    One other thing I have learned is that sometime employees get hurt and it has no realtion to work. If they get hurt on thier own time and end up with a restricition, but let the employer accomodates the restrictioin, the return to work program now works for the employee. And because we the employere say we need them there we want them to continue to come to work, event though they have a restricition. This has been something several employees have seen as being a great thing.

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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