Complaints prompt Google to change disability accommodation policy
- Employees are challenging Google's policies on a range of workplace issues lately, and the tech giant is responding. The latest issue is the company's policy on accommodating workers with disabilities, CNBC reported. Employee Cathy Fitzpatrick took on Google's accommodation policy, including issues such as providing special workspace adjustments for people with injuries or tailoring communication resources for people with autism, partly inspired by the walkouts Google employees staged in early November.
- Fitzpatrick first brought up her issues with the company's policy about a year ago, but the company refused to act, said CNBC. So, Fitzpatrick posted a long thread on Twitter explaining how Google was violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including requiring workers to submit medical documentation before discussing accommodation. According to Fitzgerald, an anonymous internal employee mailing list for employees experiencing mental illness was full of complaints about Google's accommodation process.
- While the company did not agree with the interpretation of its policy, Google ultimately softened its language. It started by changing "Discuss your workplace barriers with your medical provider," to "Where appropriate, we may ask you to provide information about your condition from a third party (e.g., your medical provider)...."
Google employees have been staging various employment actions to try to bring about change in workplace policies and procedures. A recent walkout by Google employees over its alleged cover up of sexual harassment claims against senior executives led the company to issue a new policy calling for more transparency on the matter. But it seems the walkout also enabled other workers to bring forth their issues — and for Google to respond.
HR may feel dread when workers come to them advocating for change, but employers that enable internal feedback — and respond appropriately — can prevent future issues down the line. In fact, a recent study from VitalSmarts found that employees who keep quiet about issues can end up costing employers as much as $25,000. The study also found that people don't speak up because they think others won't support them or the company would retaliate against them.
Additionally, the ADA is clear about accommodating workers with disabilities; employers must provide reasonable accommodations, unless to do so would cause undue hardship for an organization's operations. And once an employee requests an accommodation, employers must engage in the reasonable accommodation process to address the employee's needs and how those needs can be met.