The ADA and Employment Service Professionals
SUMMARY: This article is a starting point for learning more about employment service professionals (ESPs). It explains how these professionals support the employment of individuals with disabilities. ESPs answer a lot of questions, and this article lists some of the common questions. The article also discusses how the answers are best found through understanding certain concepts from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), like disability disclosure and reasonable accommodations.
The employment service professional (ESP) has a unique role in implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in our communities. Typically, ESPs work for organizations that provide employment and pre-employment transition services to people with disabilities. They may be known by other titles, such as a job developer, job coach, employment specialist, or employment consultant. If this describes you, read on for more information on what you need to know about the ADA and employment. If you happen to be an employer looking to diversify your workforce, think about how partnering with these “pipelines of talent” at disability employment organizations can add value to your business.
Building Relationships and Educating Partners
The ESP serves two customers: the job seeker or supported employee with a disability and, of equal importance, the business partner. For the job seeker/employee, the role of the ESP involves helping them gain an understanding of their rights-and responsibilities under Title I of the ADA, the employment provisions of the law. For the business partner, the ESP function is to educate on how disability inclusion and the ADA can lend the business a competitive advantage. Although initially many employment professionals may have concerns about the ADA being perceived as a “threat” to employers, the fact is that having a solid ADA knowledge base can strengthen the value the ESP brings to the business partnership.
The ESP’s purpose is to develop strong relationships with employers while facilitating the communication and primary relationship between the employee with a disability and their employer. Businesses state that they appreciate the support that the ESP brings to the relationship: guidance, troubleshooting, and “someone to lean on.” Imparting information about the ADA and its application to business imperatives is an element of this support. It is also an element of customer service that the ESP can bring to the partnership.
The ADA covers a few broad principles that apply to the ESP’s work with both job seekers and employers. In the world of employment, one of these key principles is the concept of disability disclosure in the workplace. Common questions around disclosure include these:
- Does a job seeker need to disclose a disability at the time of hire?
- What questions can an employer ask during a job interview?
- Can an employer request medical documentation to verify a disability?
- What can—and can’t—I share with the employer regarding a job seeker or supported employee?
In your role as ESP, a solid knowledge of the ins and the outs of disability disclosure under the ADA can serve as an asset to your potential employer partner.
Another broad concept covered by the ADA is reasonable accommodation. Under Title I, we apply reasonable accommodation to our work with the business community. Common questions around reasonable accommodation include:
- Is a job coach considered a reasonable accommodation?
- Who pays for the accommodation?
- Who determines whether an accommodation is reasonable?
Understanding the finer points of the interactive process that follows a reasonable accommodation request, whether begun by the individual with a disability or the ESP with the individual’s consent, is crucial.
As an ESP, how can increasing your knowledge of disability disclosure and reasonable accommodation enhance your business engagement efforts? Increasing your ADA knowledge arms you with resources and expertise as you strive to form strong, solid, mutually beneficial partnerships with employers.