April 9, 2015

Accommodating an employee who has a learning or intellectual disability presents special challenges for employers and unions. How can workplace parties recognize when performance issues may be the result of a learning or intellectual disability if an employee does not self-identify as a person with a disability? What are some common forms of accommodation for employees with functional limitations in memory or verbal comprehension? In this session, disability experts and seasoned counsel will provide practical guidance on recognizing and accommodating learning and intellectual disabilities in the workplace. Topics to be addressed include:

  • Understanding definitions and characteristics: Are there widely accepted definitions of the terms “learning disability” and “intellectual disability” or do they vary depending on the source? Is there any overlap between these terms? What are the defining characteristics of common learning disabilities, such as dyslexia? Is Attention Deficit Disorder considered to be a learning disability? Why or why not? What are the defining characteristics of intellectual disabilities? Is it preferable for workplace parties to consider learning and intellectual disabilities in terms of functional limitations rather than medical definitions? Is it common for a person with a learning or intellectual disability to have a concurrent mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety?
  • Inquiring about learning and intellectual disabilities: Should employers ask job applicants if they have a learning or intellectual disability? If so, how should this inquiry be made? If an employee does not self-identify, when will an employer have a duty to inquire whether he or she has a learning or intellectual disability? Must an employer explicitly inquire into whether an employee has a learning or intellectual disability before disciplining or discharging the employee for performance issues?
  • Meeting accommodation needs while respecting privacy: What information will trigger the duty to accommodate a learning or intellectual disability? Is medical information from a physician required? What privacy considerations should be borne in mind when requesting medical information about employees with learning or intellectual disabilities? What are some common accommodations for employees with functional limitations in memory? Problem-solving? Attention? Reading, linguistic and verbal comprehension? Mathematical comprehension? Visual comprehension?
  • Countering stereotypes: What stereotypes about learning and intellectual disabilities should workplace parties be aware of? What are some best practices for avoiding or combatting stereotypical assumptions about mental disabilities generally, and learning and intellectual disabilities in particular? Do employers have a duty to educate their workforce about learning and intellectual disabilities? What steps can an employer take to ensure a non-discriminatory environment for employees with learning and intellectual disabilities and to promote early recognition and accommodation?