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Hineinu: Inclusion and Employment Practices

Accessibility means that Jews with disabilities not only have access to buildings and lifecycle events but to all things Jewish, including jobs. Although synagogues are legally exempt from parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we are morally bound to its spirit of non-discrimination and equal opportunity.

All employers, religious or not, that employ 15 or more people must comply with Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination. These employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified persons with disabilities so they may have an employment opportunity equal to that available to individuals without disabilities. Religious organizations may, however, give employment preference to people of their own religion or religious organization.

The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities. Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities," including employees and applicants for employment.

An individual is considered to have a disability if: he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. People who experience discrimination because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability are also protected.

• Review hiring practices and train hiring staff so that qualified individuals who have disabilities are considered for open positions based on their skills to do the job (with accommodations)

• Provide individuals with disabilities with reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

• Handle each accommodation process on a case-by-case basis. Do not assume that an individual with disabilities will require accommodations in the workplace.

• Include the individual in the accommodation process.

• When deciding on accommodations, ask questions of the individual and the employer:

o What symptoms or limitations is the individual experiencing?
o How do the individual’s symptoms or limitations affect job performance?
o What specific tasks are problematic as a result of these symptoms and limitations?
o What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems?
o Are appropriate resources being used to determine accommodations?
o Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the individual to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
o Do supervisory personnel and employees need disability awareness training or training on the Americans with Disabilities Act?

• Use these steps during the accommodations and hiring processes:

o Define the situation.
o Perform needs assessment.
o Explore alternative placement options.
o Monitor accommodations.

• Put specific policies or procedures in place for dealing with accommodation requests to ensure requests are handled properly and consistently. This will help employees know what to expect and will help employers track their efforts to comply with ADA.

• Be open to restructuring job description, required tasks, compensation, work schedule, etc. to accommodate an individual with disabilities.

• Allow individuals to use personal need items in the workplace (such as canes, walkers, guide dog, hearing aides, etc.) A special tax credit is available to help smaller employers make accommodations required by the ADA. An eligible small business may take a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for accommodations made to comply with the ADA. The credit is available for one-half the cost of "eligible access expenditures" that are more than $250 but less than $10,250.

For more information:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has developed several resources to help employers and people with disabilities understand and comply with the employment provisions of the ADA. Resources include a Technical Assistance Manual that provides how-to guidance on the employment provisions of the ADA, as well as a resource directory to help individuals find specific information and a variety of brochures, booklets, and fact sheets.