Return-to-Work – Interactive Search Process

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabilities of their employees if they meet the qualifications of an individual with a disability under its provisions. Not all disabled workers with permanent disability under a workers’ compensation claim are considered disabled for ADA purposes. Nonetheless, the process of interactively engaging a workers’ compensation disabled employee in the search for modified or alternate work is a good practice to follow. Therefore, it is the goal of the Interactive Return to Work Search Process to emulate and parallel in some ways the ADA model as a best practice model for workers’ compensation.

According to ADA implementing regulations, reasonable accommodations are to be determined by what is termed an “interactive process.”

First, the employer should analyze the particular job involved to determine its purpose and essential functions. For workers’ compensation purposes, Excel uses a Job Description.

Second, the employer and individual with the disability work together to identify what barriers exist to that individual’s performance of a particular job function. This analysis includes a review of the individual’s abilities and limitations and a determination as to which factors in the work environment or job tasks pose difficulties.

For workers’ compensation purposes, Excel uses the physicians P&S/MMI report and the prescribed work restrictions for the employee. Excel compares the Job Description requirements with the restrictions to determine areas of opportunity for modification of the job.

Third, the employer, working with the individual with a disability, identifies a range of possible accommodations that have the potential to remove difficulties, either in the work environment or job tasks, and which would allow the individual to perform essential functions of the job.

For workers’ compensation purposes, Excel we will ask the employee to provide a list of modifications he or she feels would enable them to return to their job and provide them to the employer to consider.

Additionally, Excel provides the employer with information about the employee’s work history and other job skills that could be considered for alternate jobs.

Fourth, having identified possible accommodations, the employer should assess the effectiveness of each accommodation and preference of the individual to be accommodated and then determine whether the various accommodations would pose an undue hardship upon the employer.

For workers’ compensation purposes, the employer should engage the employee in a discussion of accommodations and/or modifications using the prescribed work restrictions of the physician as a benchmark for the level of modification needed. Only realistic and reasonable modifications should be entertained.

What Excel does to facilitate the Interactive Return-to-Work Process

  1. Identifies Barriers to Job Performance.Excel acts to ensure complete understanding of the physician prescribed work restrictions and clarify when needed.
  2. Explores Accommodation Options in Good-Faith.Excel communicates with the injured worker, solicits his or her input regarding modification/accommodation ideas, and assesses and documents existing job skills for alternate jobs.
  3. Communicates Directly with the Employee. Excel acts as a facilitator for this process and provides documentation.
  4. Demonstrates Good Faith.Excel effectuates an open process that demonstrates good faith efforts on the part of the employer and provides documentation.

Contact Excel Managed Care for more information of how we work with employers, injured workers, and claim professional to design and perform interactive Return to Work services.