How-to Tips for Employers

Developing Accommodations


Accommodations should be determined on a case-by-case basis, but there are procedures that can be used as a guide. Starting with a disclosure of disability or a request for an accommodation, open a dialogue with the person about the limitations experienced and brainstorm possible accommodations.

Periodically reviewing and assessing the accommodations and performance is recommended. Many have found that the existence of a policy for developing and implementing accommodations and a specific procedure for resolving conflicts that might arise helps address many of the concerns about accommodating people with mental illness in the workplace.

  • Identify whether the employee has disclosed a disability and/or initiated a request for reasonable accommodations.
  • Define essential and nonessential functions of the job.
  • Assess required skills and competencies to perform the essential work functions.
    • technical skills, expertise
    • explicit expectations
    • general work skills/implicit expectations
  • Ask the employee what he or she thinks will help.
  • Evaluate the functional limitations of the employee.
  • Generate ideas for job accommodations.
  • Consult a job coach, employment specialist, state vocational rehabilitation counselor in your area.
  • Brainstorm strategies with the employee’s service providers (with permission).
  • Select the accommodation that is both reasonable and effective.

Guidelines for Providing Feedback

  • Ask the employee to give his or her perspective on performance. Encourage the employee to have a balanced perspective, identifying both strengths and weaknesses. In first attempts, have the employee list more strengths than weaknesses. Use the following format:
    • Overall evaluation of performance
    • Strengths – ask the employee to mention at least two,
    • Weaknesses – ask the employee to mention at least one,
    • Specific ways to improve performance
  • Summarize what you heard the employee saying to demonstrate understanding of his or her perspective.
  • Identify and then share areas in which you agree with the employee’s perspective, starting with strengths. Then add your own points, which were not mentioned. Again, identify more strengths than weaknesses.
    • Overall evaluation of performance
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Specific ways to improve performance
  • To disagree with the employee’s perspective, it may be helpful to say, “ you think you did _____, what I see is ____.”
  • In particular, be specific about what the employee can do to improve performance the next time. It is helpful to know what to do next time, not just what did not go well previously.


Requesting Documentation

Sometimes employers may not be clear about whether someone is disclosing a psychiatric disability or requesting a reasonable accommodation. When the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer can legally ask the employee to provide documentation.

Once someone has told you that he/she has a disability or has requested a reasonable accommodation, develop the accommodations. It is important to remember that the employer may not legally ask a job applicant before a job offer whether he or she has a disability or needs reasonable accommodations, unless that person has volunteered this information. If you are unsure about whether the employee is someone who is covered under the ADA as someone with a disability, ask for documentation from a professional.

  • Describe why you need this information, i.e., to verify the existence of a disability and the need for accommodation.
  • Identify the types of professionals who can provide this information – the EEOC guidelines state that a therapist (licensed social worker, licensed clinical psychologist, psychiatrist), medical doctor or other primary health care professional, psychiatric nurses, licensed mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselor or other related professional may all be qualified to provide the requested documentation.
  • Describe the type of information that you need in the documentation. Under the guidelines, you can ask for the following types of information:
    • that the employee has a covered disability under the ADA (an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity),
    • functional limitations that the person experiences that are due to the disability, and
    • suggested accommodations in the workplace.
  • If the information provided by the professional still does not clarify the situation for you, you may ask the employee to meet with a professional of your choice to verify the disability and/or need for accommodation.

NOTE: The information contained in these pages is for educational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Individuals should contact the appropriate legal resources for specific legal advice regarding their particular situations.