What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or an adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of nondisabled employees.
Types of Reasonable Accommodations
- Job Restructuring: Reallocating or redistributing the marginal functions of a job
- Modified Work Schedules and Flexible Leave Policies: Changing a regular work schedule, flexibility in work hours or the work week, part-time work, time off from work because of the disability
- Modification or Purchase of Equipment and Devices: Purchase of equipment or changes to existing equipment. The department is only obligated to provide equipment that is needed to perform a job; there is no obligation to provide equipment that an employee uses regularly in daily life.
- Modification of Policies: Change of a workplace policy that prohibits something an employee with a disability needs to do their job
- Modification of Physical Site: Removing or altering architectural barriers to provide structural accessibility to the workplace.
- Provision of Readers, Communication Access Providers, or Personal Assistants
- Reassignment to a Vacant Position and Light Duty: The new position should be one that the employee is qualified to perform and that pays a comparable salary. Reassignment does not require the employee to compete for the new position.
Reassignment does not require the department to violate a seniority system or collective bargaining agreement under which someone else is entitled to the vacant position. Reassignment will be considered only if there are no reasonable accommodations available that would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of his/her current job.
REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FAQs
Am I obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation?
It is a violation of the ADA to fail or refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the unit.
What constitutes an unreasonable accommodation?
An accommodation is unreasonable if doing so would cause an undue hardship. Undue hardship means that an accommodation would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial or disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the department. If a particular accommodation would pose an undue hardship, the University will try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship.
Does a reasonable accommodation have to be requested at a certain time, for example, at the beginning of employment?
A reasonable accommodation can be requested at any time. It does not have to be requested at the beginning of employment.
Can a reasonable accommodation be requested after a performance evaluation or notification of performance deficiencies?
A reasonable accommodation may be requested before or after being informed of performance deficiencies. Once an employee submits a request for a reasonable accommodation, the department must engage in the interactive process. A supervisor cannot refuse to discuss the request or fail to provide a reasonable accommodation as punishment for the performance issue. Note, however, that a reasonable accommodation request will not cancel out any prior disciplinary actions.
Can I ask an applicant or employee questions about her or his disability?
It is unlawful to: 1) ask an applicant whether she or he has a disability or about the nature or severity of a disability, or 2) require the applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer.
You can ask an applicant questions about ability to perform job-related functions, as long as the questions are not phrased in terms of a disability. You can also ask an applicant to describe or to demonstrate how the applicant will perform job-related functions. Unless an applicant’s disability is known or obvious, this question must be asked of all applicants.
If an employee with a known or obvious disability is having performance problems, a supervisor may suggest an accommodation, but only after making a preliminary determination that the performance problem is related to the employee’s disability. This is an exception to the general rule against inquiring about disabilities, and extends only to those with known or obvious disabilities. Departments should consult with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access and human resources before engaging with the employee.
REQUESTING AN ACCOMMODATION
Faculty and Staff
Employees or applicants with disabilities may request reasonable accommodations regardless of employment classification or status (permanent, extra help/academic hourly, intern). The employee must initiate the reasonable accommodation process by inquiring about the process from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access, a supervisor, or human resources.
The Interactive Process
The ADA requires that the University engage in an interactive process involving the employee requesting the accommodation and the employing department. The interactive process will entail the following:
- Determination of whether the employee has a qualifying disability based on the medical documentation provided.
- A review of the employee’s written job description to distinguish “essential functions” of the position from the “marginal functions.”
- A determination of how the employee’s impairment/disability impacts his/her ability to perform the essential functions of his/her job.
- An identification of potential accommodations and assessment of the effectiveness of such accommodations on the employee’s job performance.
- Identification of the type of accommodation needed.
- Consideration of the preference of the employee; noting, however, that the department has the right to select among the alternatives available, as long as they are effective.
- Identification and implementation of the effective reasonable accommodation by the department as expeditiously as possible.
- Periodic follow up with the employee and the department to assess continued effectiveness of the accommodation.
Medical Documentation and Confidentiality
If the disability is not obvious, and there is no relevant medical information already on file for the employee or the relevant medical information on file is more than 12 months old, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access will require the employee to submit current documentation from a physician or other medical professional concerning the existence and extent of the disability. The employee is responsible for requesting applicable medical documentation. Occasionally, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access may need to consult with an employee’s physician or provider directly. In such instances, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Access will obtain the employee’s written consent for the release of medical information.
Pursuant to the ADA, the employee’s medical information will be maintained in a confidential file separate from the employee’s personnel file or other records not related to the employee’s accommodation request. Requests for accommodations, medical documentation, and accommodation determinations will be shared only with those individuals who need to know in order to provide the accommodation. In some instances, the employee’s supervisor does not need to know about the person’s disability or accommodations. In those situations, the information will not be shared with the supervisor.
Information about an employee’s disability or accommodations cannot be discussed or shared with co-workers, customers, or members of the public.
Students who require academic accommodations must contact Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES). A student must provide documentation that he or she has a disability, that is, an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and that supports the need for an academic adjustment. The documentation should identify how a student’s ability to function is limited as a result of her or his disability. The primary purpose of the documentation is to establish a disability in order to help the University work interactively with the student to identify appropriate accommodations.