Anxiety About Returning to the Workplace

by Maggie McPhee, SHRM-CP, PHR, Director of Information Services
Published July 8, 2021

As employers are calling employees back into the workplace there will be some employees who prefer to stay home.  TEA has been receiving HR Helpline calls about employees claiming that coming back into the office is causing them anxiety and are seeking notes excusing them from returning to the workplace from their doctors.  Employers should be careful of the possibility of an ADA claim if they “require” employees to return to work – especially if the work being performed has been and could continue to be successfully performed from outside the office.  Some employers are choosing to “accommodate” these employees’ restrictions just to be safe.

 

In order to minimize the potential of stress-related ADA situations employers should consider using the interrogatory process in their decision-making.  This process includes the following steps:

        Discuss with the employee what the situation is and what they believe would work as a reasonable accommodation.

        Identify ideas the company has regarding possible reasonable accommodations.

        Potentially involve the employee’s medical professional by presenting the facts about the job and asking for their professional input on what might work as a reasonable accommodation.

        Evaluate, prioritize and cost out each recommendation.

        Determine the best reasonable accommodation option(s) and make a final decision.

        Communicate the decision, explain what must be done then take action to implement the course of action.

        Last, but certainly not least, document and record each step taken along the way – the suggestions, the pros/cons for each, the cost, the feasibility as well as any communications, expectations and ramifications of inaction.

 

Following these guidelines will help the company if the situation become litigious.  ADA reasonable accommodation decisions are most often unique to each organization since what is “reasonable” for one is not always reasonable for another.  If you have any questions or would like further guidance on this issue please feel free to contact TEA at 616-698-1167.