Coinciding with President Obama’s designation of October as “National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2010,” the federal government has posted a toolkit on the internet to facilitate the return-to-work process for both employers and employees following a disability-related leave of absence. The toolkit, which can be accessed at www.dol.gov/odep/return-to-work, is geared to educate both employees and employers about their respective rights and responsibilities so that workers may return to an existing or new job as quickly as possible.
The employer toolkit includes suggestions about adjusting work duties or schedules as an accommodation, as well as tips to help reduce workers’ compensation costs and job-related injuries. Additionally, the employer toolkit provides an overview of employer obligations under various disability, leave, and workers’ compensation laws. Meanwhile, the employee toolkit contains information regarding resume writing, preparing for a job interview, and laws pertaining to employment and workplace accommodations.
While the employer toolkit may provide a useful basis for devising general return-to-work strategies, employers should discuss specific cases with legal counsel in order to minimize the risk of exposure to failure-to-accommodate or violation-of-leave-entitlement claims, which can be very problematic and costly.