TBI & Workplace Accommodations

Jobs provide us with financial security, satisfying daily challenges, and opportunities for social engagement. Sadly, many people struggle to return to work after being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with “physical or mental impairments.” This broad definition encompasses the various cognitive and physical symptoms that tend to accompany a TBI diagnosis. Of course, every TBI patient has unique symptoms and limitations, so employers need to work with their employees to establish reasonable and helpful accommodations.

Both the employee and the employer need to consider the following questions:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee’s job performance?
  3. Which tasks might be difficult in light of these limitations?
  4. What constitutes a reasonable accommodation in this particular circumstance?
  5. What accommodations can reduce or eliminate potential challenges?
  6. What resources are available that can help us decide which accommodations are best?
  7. Do the other employees need training about TBI?

Requesting Accommodations

It is the employee’s responsibility to formally request any reasonable accommodations. An employer can’t anticipate an employee’s needs, nor can they make presumptions about an employee’s disability. A written request can notify your employer and set the accommodation process in motion. Of course, this document can also serve as proof if your employer violates the ADA and refuses to provide you with practical accommodations.

Your written request needs to include specific information about your disability and how it affects your productivity. You should also include: you name and job title, the date, a clear request for accommodation, potential accommodation options, and a note from your doctor that confirms your condition and limitations. Fortunately, there are countless options that fall under the “reasonable accommodation” umbrella; in fact, even reassignment can be a form of reasonable accommodation. As such, you can’t be afraid to discuss your needs and limitations with your employer.

Potential accommodations for physical limitations include, but are not limited to:

  • Installing ramps, handrails, and lever-style door handles
  • Providing reserved or handicap parking spaces
  • Moving the employee to a different office
  • Removing architectural barriers or reconfiguring the work area
  • Instituting a policy to keep pathways clear   
  • Offering leave for any medical appointments or health issues

Potential accommodations for visual limitations include, but are not limited to:

  • Moving the employee to an area with better natural lighting
  • Installing white lights
  • Purchasing a glare-resistant computer monitor screen
  • Providing written materials in larger fonts

Potential accommodations for limitations regarding memory or concentration include, but are not limited to:

  • Removing or reducing clutter and distractions in the work area
  • Moving the employee into a private or quiet work space
  • Dividing large assignments into smaller tasks
  • Developing deadline calendars and color-coded daily to-do lists 
  • Scheduling weekly check-in meetings
  • Allowing the employee to record meetings
  • Sending the employee meeting minutes
  • Emailing assignments with clear instructions
  • Posting how-to instructions next to frequently used office equipment
  • Establishing achievable long-term and short-term goals

Potential accommodations for stamina limitations include, but are not limited to:

  • Restructuring the job 
  • Encouraging a self-paced work schedule with flexible hours
  • Negotiating a flexible work schedule that includes frequent breaks
  • Scheduling more challenging work tasks at the beginning of the employee’s shift
  • Providing additional time and training to learn new responsibilities
  • Implementing a part-time work schedule or job sharing arrangement

Of course, an employer doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to an employee’s request, at least so long as they’re willing to negotiate an effective and reasonable alternative. There are certain accommodations that are not considered reasonable even per the ADA; for example, an employer won’t be held legally accountable for: not eliminating essential functions of a job, not lowering production standards, or not purchasing personal items or equipment for the employee to use (i.e. wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthetics). If your employer refuses to bargain or implement accommodations, you can file an ADA complaint or contact the Disability Rights Section for guidance.

Have You Sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury? Explore Your Legal Options Today

If you’ve been injured by the actions of a negligent person or corporation, contact the San Francisco brain injury lawyers at Scarlett Law Group today. A successful lawsuit can yield monetary damages that account for your lifelong medical expenses, personal suffering, and, if needs must, general loss of earning capacity.

As one of the leading personal injury trial firms in California, we’ve been able to recover multiple multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients. Our principle attorney, Randall H. Scarlett, is an Executive Committee member of the American Association for Justice’s Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group (TBILG) and frequently serves on the faculty of medical/legal conferences held by the North American Brain Injury Society, the Brain Injury Association of America, and various other prestigious associations.  If you’re ready to take legal action, rely on a team with the experience and resources to investigate your case, calculate your ongoing injury-related expenses, and develop an aggressive litigation strategy that holds the negligent party responsible for your injury and correlating financial losses.

Call the Scarlett Law Group at (415) 688-2176 to discuss your case with a qualified legal professional.

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