Suppose you’re doing an annual evaluation for an employee whose performance has slipped drastically over the past few months.

You’ve begun going over his numerous mistakes and omissions, when he suddenly reveals he’s been suffering from severe backaches – brought on by a mishap at the gym – that sap his ability to concentrate.

OK, hold on a minute. You were about to give him an Unsatisfactory rating, which will lead to a performance improvement plan and the possibility of termination. But now you’re not so sure. You realize the employee may have a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and you’re worried that if you give him the rating he deserves, you may be breaking the law.

Are you?

Actually, no. The ADA doesn’t require that you tolerate poor performance by employees with disabilities.

The law also doesn’t oblige you to:

  • Raise a performance rating, or in any way give an evaluation that doesn’t reflect actual performance, or
  • Withhold disciplinary action, including termination, if it’s warranted by the poor performance.

But – and this is important – in the situation above, the ADA may require you to offer an accommodation that helps the employee improve his performance, and thus avoid being dismissed. Still, there’s no need to change a performance rating when an employee suddenly reveals a disability, and you should hold an employee with a disability up to the same standard as everyone else.

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