Evaluating an Employee with a Disability

More people with disabilities of all kinds are getting into the workforce, bringing with them innovation, but also challenges. One of these challenges is how to evaluate these employees fairly, especially if they have severe physical or intellectual disabilities.

To maintain legal compliance, companies may need to assess individuals with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) while maintaining a level of fairness that translates well to team performance. Use these tips to make the most out of a performance evaluation when you evaluate employees with disabilities:

  • Do use fair assessment standards for all employees: The ADA requires that you provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees so they can perform their jobs. It doesn’t restrict employers from using typical performance standards to rate all employees, regardless of disability.
  • Do not use an individual’s disability to excuse or qualify workplace behaviors: A company should never use a disability as a qualifier for performance. You have the right to hold disabled employees to the same standards as other employees, so avoid using language such as, “The performance was surprisingly good, considering Mary’s situation.”
  • Do address potential problems that have arisen because of a disability: Some disabled employees may struggle with their situations at certain times more than others will. While you should use the same performance review standards, it doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to a person’s disability status. If someone is demonstrating behaviors inconsistent with past performance, discuss the behavior and reasonable solutions with the employee.
  • Do recognize the potential for a disabled employee in the wider company strategy: Many companies cater to a diverse range of customers. Understanding the unique perspective of a disabled employee can open the door to creative problem solving, enhanced customer support, and attaining strategic business goals. A disability often does not prevent employees from performing at an equal or superior level to nondisabled employees.
  • Do use constructive feedback: As with nondisabled employees, focusing on constructive criticism will yield more results than using negative criticism. In fact, framing feedback in negative language invites legal consequences regardless of an employee’s identifying characteristics. If an employee feels that feedback relates directly to a disability or other innate characteristic such as religion, race, or gender, the company could face an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission compliant and subsequent investigation.
  • Do maintain quantitative data regarding worker productivity: Get the facts before you actively avoid hiring a disabled individual or use a disability as a reason behind performance problems. Many studies suggest that there is little to no difference between disabled and nondisabled employees regarding work performance. In fact, companies that have disabled employees notice a higher level of employee retention and overall productivity.

Handling a disability in the workplace may be a new situation for many businesses, but it can also enrich team dynamics and serve as a motivating factor for other employees. Using standardized employee evaluations is one way to prevent accidental bias or discrimination and ensure that disabled employees have access to reasonable accommodations. Make the most out of your team reviews by investing in great performance review template today.

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