I have an applicant for a janitorial job who has extensive spine injuries. He is requesting that the employer provide a back belt upon hire for wearing at work. There is NIOSH research that shows that back belts are not proven to help prevent back injuries. No other person in our facility wear back belts. Do we provide the requested item even though we do not think it will help…?????
In the first two installments of this blog series we discussed having the applicant perform a “show me” demonstration of his ability to perform the most physically demanding task in his prospective job. If the demonstration does not convince the individual to withdraw his application you have to proceed to the conditional hire phase of employment. We enter this phase when the applicant has demonstrated that he is qualified for the job and after you tender a valid offer of employment.
Keeping in mind that we cannot perform a medical examination in the application stage of employment, we consciously move to the conditional hire phase. At this point discuss your concerns for his safety based on his self-expressed request to wear a back support belt in order to safely perform the lifting required in the job. I would refer the individual for either a post-offer test, if one exists, or a conditional hire FCE.
The referral question for this ADA Medical Examination should include language such as:
“Mr. Johnson is being referred to you for a Conditional Hire Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). The job for which he is applying is Janitor – Level One at this company. Mr. Johnson has self-disclosed a history of injuries to his spine. Please focus your evaluation on his ability to safely execute the physical demands of the essential functions of this positon.
Given that the physical demands of this position involve dynamic forceful exertions and that Mr. Johnson has a history of spinal injuries, do not use isometric evaluation tools in this examination.
Please provide your opinion as to Mr. Johnson’s ability to safely execute the physical demands of the essential functions of the target position. Should you find that Mr. Johnson is not safe for testing, please stop the test and advise of such. We will advise Mr. Johnson of his next step options subsequent to his testing experience.”
Whether you refer for a post-offer test or a conditional hire FCE, be sure to let the examiner know that the individual has self-disclosed his history. A qualified examiner will want to explore this history before proceeding with testing. He will also want an up-to-date essential function job analysis or job description before designing the test.
The focus of the conversation regarding this testing experience is a concern for safety of the prospective employee. Document in your Interactive Conversation log in the RAMS (Reasonable Accommodation Management Software) that the test has been scheduled, the referral questions submitted, and the results of the test. Set a reminder alarm in RAMS to follow up with the tester and the prospective employee at the end of the day of the test.
The outcome of this test may be that the individual is safe for testing and able to safely execute the physical demands of the essential functions of the job. The outcome may also be that the individual can execute the demands of the job if he is provided an accommodation. If the latter is the case be sure to follow up with the individual as soon as possible after the test is complete. It does not hurt to offer an accommodation if one is warranted even if the individual has not formally requested one.
And, as always, document this entire process in your RAMS Interactive Conversation log.
Interested in learning more about the reasonable accommodation process?