If and when an employee comes to you and tells you that they have a disability and need an accommodation, the first thing you need to do is enter into an “interactive process” with the employee. Really, this mostly means talking to the employee about the issues and treating them with good faith. Ask questions, let the employee know what will happen next, keep the ball rolling, and make decisions promptly.
First figure out what kinds of help the employee needs. Ask for a medical opinion from their doctor, including a statement of what they can and can’t do; better yet, provide a good job description and ask the doctor what accommodations the employee needs. (All in writing, of course.) Ask the employee what accommodations they think would help them do their job. You aren’t required to provide what the employee asks, but their idea might be a lot simpler than what you were thinking.
Use the Job Accommodation Network; it is full of helpful ideas. (It also counts as a good-faith effort on your part if there is a legal dispute later.) Remember that you are not required to provide accommodations that constitute an undue hardship for your business – but you may want to consult a lawyer about exactly what that means before refusing to accommodate.
Using an interactive process is one of the major ADAAA requirements for employers, and it is the most efficient way you have to help the employee be a productive part of your business.
Thanks to Jennifer Conwell of the Montana Human Rights Bureau for a great presentation.