Accommodating workers with Autism in the hospitality industry

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2020 | employment law

Renowned professor Temple Grandin said that “the world needs all kinds of minds” in her 2013 Ted Talk. Ms. Grandin, like numerous others across the U.S., has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), previously known as Autism. The disorder can be challenging to characterize because individual cases can differ. Some common behaviors of ASD include the inability to understand the thoughts, feelings and emotions of others, a heightened sensitivity to stimuli and repeated words or actions. 

Because of this, some with ASD find it difficult to understand the nuances and expectations of the modern workplace, making it difficult for them to find and keep a job. Despite their disorder, many can thrive at work. In some cases, they can even perform their duties better than some of their neurotypical co-workers.

ASD in the hospitality industry 

Americans are traveling more often nowadays. Due to this, the hospitality industry is seeing a strong demand for workers at hotels, on cruise ships and local tourism sites. In most cases, these jobs require developed skills in cultural awareness, customer service, professional communication and teamwork. Some people on the spectrum may not have honed these skills as much. However, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn them or won’t have a positive impact on your organization. Workers in the hospitality industry also need to have a strong attention to detail, in-depth knowledge of the local area and be a problem solver – all of which are common strengths for people with ASD.

Possible accommodations

California law requires employers with five or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. While the accommodations cannot cause your organization undue hardship or decrease your quality of service or production, workplace adjustments for those on the spectrum can be simple, affordable and highly effective. According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), these are a few accommodations that could help workers with ASD:

  • Thoroughly review the employee conduct handbook with them and provide concrete examples of appropriate communication and behavior. 
  • Train neurotypical employees in sensitivity awareness to better understand their neurodivergent co-workers.
  • Provide advanced notice of meeting discussions.
  • Provide praise and reinforcement for quality job performance and behavior. 
  • Allow them to focus on areas in which they have a high level of interest, aptitude or skill.

Your neurodivergent worker can add value

Those on the spectrum can deliver a wealth of insight, value and creativity to your organization if given the proper work adjustments. If you have questions regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and ASD job placement programs, an attorney with an employment law background can help those in the hospitality industry and other companies understand your legal rights and responsibilities in the accommodations process.