Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year - and New Laws!

As you're taking down the holiday decorations around your office, take a few moments to think about your successes over the past year. Relish the moment. Take it all in. Then brace yourself.

2009 is primed to be an active year for HR professionals. You may be saying, "Isn't every year active for me?" Yes, it most certainly is. So just think about what potentially awaits you if we're sending up the flare now. Consider it job security in these uncertain economic times!

It can be overwhelming to think about the changes that occurred in 2008 which are poised to take effect in 2009--FMLA, ADAAA, GINA. So let's not get overwhelmed. Instead, we'll focus on each of these one week at a time. Remember--you're not the only HR professional out there trying to get a handle on these new laws and their impact on your company. Take a deep breath, open your mind, and store your attorney's number in your speed dial for those questions that will surely arise as everyone wades through our new work environment.

This go-around, we'll focus on the ADAAA. Keep in mind--attorneys are best-guessing just like you on how this law will be implemented, interpretations of the language, and developing your best practices. Consider this entry, as well as your approach to implementation, to be a living document. Change is as much good as it is necessary under the ADAAA.

One of your biggest hurdles in embracing the new Act will be changing a mindset that has developed over the last 15 years under the ADA. No longer will the focus be on whether someone is an individual with a disability. Rather, you will now be expected to show that as the employer, you lived up to your end of the bargain by engaging in the interactive process with the employee who requests a reasonable accommodation, examining the reasonableness of the accommodation request (or developing an accommodation, depending on the case), and the effort put forth in adapting the work environment for the employee.

How do you change this ingrained philosophy? Train your managers, revisit your reasonable accommodation policy, and prop your door open for employees are some of the ways to change your ship's course.

Get in touch with your HR counsel to talk about what best practices specifically fit your organization. Use this as a dry-run for engaging in the interactive process, as you may be hesitant to follow some of the recommendations offered for a number of reasons.

And you thought taking down the decorations was exhausting work!

Happy New Year!

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