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Reasonable Accommodation for People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

This guide is for information only and is not legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to specific facts. This guide is based on general legal principles and does not address all possible claims, exceptions or conditions related to the subject matter discussed.

by Marilynn Mika Spencer

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Undue hardship is defined as something requiring significant difficulty or expense with respect to the employer's size, financial resources, and the nature of its operations.

Reasonable accommodation may include making existing facilities readily accessible; job restructuring; modifying work schedules; reassignment to a vacant position; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; providing qualified readers or interpreters; and more.

Accommodations must be determined on an individual, case-by-case basis. There is no cookie-cutter approach to finding an appropriate accommodation.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free service designed to increase employment of workers with disabilities by providing individualized work accommodations solutions and suggestions, providing technical assistance regarding the ADA and other disabilityrelated laws, and educating callers about self-employment options. JAN is provided by the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. JAN represents the most comprehensive resource for job accommodations available. www.jan.wvu.edu; (800) 526-7234 telephone – (877) 781-9403 TTY

JAN suggests the following inquiries to help assess what accommodations are appropriate:

  1. What limitations is the employee with a mental impairment experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Has the employee with a mental impairment been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
  6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee with a to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  7. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding mental impairments?

Some possible reasonable accommodations for persons with anxiety disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), include:

  • Allow a self-paced workload

  • Allow additional time to learn new responsibilities and/or for training

  • Allow flexible work hours, make-up time and part-time

  • Allow frequent or longer breaks, with backup coverage

  • Allow telephone calls or time off during work hours to consult with doctors and others for needed support, counseling or therapy

  • Allow the employee control of his/her workspace

  • Allow the employee to take a break to use stress management techniques to cope with frustration

  • Allow the employee to tape record meetings and/or provide typed minutes

  • Allow the presence of a support animal

  • Allow working from home all or part of the time, and provide necessary equipment

  • Ask for and implement employee input

  • Develop a procedure to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodation

  • Develop strategies to handle problems before they arise

  • Develop written work agreements that include the agreed upon accommodations, clear expectations of responsibilities and the consequences of not meeting performance standards

  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals

  • Do not require all employees to attend work related social functions

  • Educate all employees on their right to accommodations

  • Encourage employees to move non-work conversations out of work areas

  • Ensure employees are welcome to communicate openly with
  • managers and supervisors without reprisal

  • Establish written long term and short term goals Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting

  • Make daily To Do lists and check items off as they are completed

  • Move the employee to a private office or an area with less distractions

  • Plan for uninterrupted work time

  • Provide job coaches

  • Provide job sharing opportunities

  • Provide positive praise and reinforcement

  • Provide sensitivity training to coworkers and supervisors

  • Provide weekly/monthly meetings with the employee to discuss workplace issues and productions levels

  • Provide written job instructions and checklists

  • Providing gradual updates on forthcoming changes

  • Recognize that a change in the office environment or of supervisors may be difficult for a person with an anxiety disorder.

  • When an employee is given a new supervisor, allow the employee to have contact with the prior supervisor to assist in an effective transition

  • Reduce distractions in the work area, including by providing white noise/environmental sound machines, or allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset; use sound absorption panels, cubicle walls and doors

  • Refer to counseling and employee assistance programs

  • Remind employee of important meetings and deadlines, and provide a calendar

  • Restructure the job to include only essential functions

  • Use electronic organizers, watches, and timers with prompts

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