Ergonomics in the workplace prevent common injuries, like carpal tunnel, and allow those with disabilities to maintain their employment. An ergonomic chair is part of an ergonomic workstation setup. However, many chairs are marketed as “ergonomic” despite having various shapes and requirements.

For example, employers may have trouble knowing what to do when an employee suffering from back pain requests an ergonomic chair. Making sure that your employees have what they need to be comfortable and productive at work can be a challenge, especially when it comes to requests for ergonomic chairs. Title 1 of the ADA provides guidance on how to accommodate employee needs, but sifting through individual requests and figuring out what is truly necessary can take up a lot of time. The following topics focus on workplace ergonomic chair best practices.

How to Evaluate the Request

When an employee comes to you with a request for an ergonomic chair, the first thing you’ll need to do is evaluate the request. You should take into account the following factors:

  • The nature of the employee’s job and how it might be causing pain or discomfort
  • The severity of the pain or discomfort
  • Whether other employees in similar positions have made similar requests

If the employee’s job involves sitting for long periods of time, you may want to consider their request more seriously. If the employee is experiencing severe pain, you’ll also want to take their request more seriously. And if other employees in similar positions have made similar requests, it may be wise to accommodate them as well.

An ergonomic evaluation involves a trained professional assessing an individual’s workstation and making recommendations for changes that can improve comfort and prevent pain.

If an employee requests an ergonomic chair for a medical condition, and not all employees have this benefit of employment, the employer can ask for medical documentation to support their request, as long as the disability is not visible. The employee could also fill out ADA accommodation documentation that the employer has created. Employers and employees can find sample inquiry forms and accommodation request forms by JAN.

The Choice of Ergonomic Chair Being Requested

The employer gets to pick the accommodation as long as it is reasonable and effective. Therefore, as part of the interactive process, the employer can suggest different types of chairs and explain how each chair would be helpful. If there are several chairs to consider, the employer may pick the less expensive one, as long as the chair purchased is effective.

The EEOC has ruled that if more than one accommodation is effective, the preference of the individual with a disability should take precedence. The employer devising the accommodation, on the other hand, has final veto power over which alternative accommodations are chosen.

Alternatives to Providing Ergonomic Chairs

Employee sitting on an office chair and working

In some cases, an employee may require extra support while sitting, which could come in the form of a lumbar or seat cushion. An ergonomic assessment should be conducted to confirm that the chair being used positions the employee correctly. Other accommodations for sitting might also be options depending on what the employee needs. Nevertheless, for some people, a new chair is going to be necessary. An ergonomic desk is also worth considering as some studies have shown the effects of a sit stand desk on health and productivity have been quite positive, leading to a more efficient workforce.

Other Things To Consider

While a request for equipment, such as an ergonomic chair, may be simple, other factors might have to be considered by an employer if they are receiving a lot of accommodation requests.

Consider the following:

  • Would regular ergonomic assessments be beneficial for all employees as a part of their employment benefits?
  • If your office furniture is looking a little worse for wear, it might be time for an update.
  • Is it necessary to treat all requests for ergonomic chairs as accommodation requests? Or is it possible to create a policy that provides better equipment as a bonus of employment to all employees?

Taking steps to prevent workplace injuries does not only help to avoid the expense of claims, but it may also reduce the time it takes for equipment requests to go through the general ADA procedure. Of course, each firm’s policy and procedure may differ. However, being open-minded about possible adjustments in rules and processes might benefit both employees and those in charge of accommodation requests.