Seven Steps To Reasonable Accommodation by 9vaq65C


									                      “Seven Steps to Reasonable Accommodation”
                                        John Patrick Evans, CRC
                                      Employer Relations Manager
                          Washington State Department Social and Health Services
                                  Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

Reasonable accommodation is often defined as a change in the work environment, or in the way
things are customarily done, that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal
employment opportunities. The reasonable accommodation process is best understood as a
means by which barriers to the equal opportunity of an individual with disability are identified,
removed or alleviated. The primary purpose of reasonable accommodation is intended to enable
the individual with disability to perform a job, not remove the requirements associated with the
job. Reasonable accommodation often challenges the method by which jobs functions are
traditionally performed (function Vs method).
It is unlawful for a covered employer to fail to make reasonable accommodations to the known
physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee unless making the
accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” (e.g. significant difficulty or expense). The
responsibility to provide reasonable accommodation in an employment setting often falls into
three categories:
      Those that ensure equal opportunity in the application process;
      Those that enable workers with disabilities to perform a position’s essential functions;
      Those that enable workers with disabilities to enjoy the same benefits and privileges of
       employment as enjoyed by workers without disabilities.
It is unlawful to deny employment opportunities to otherwise qualified workers or applicants
with disabilities based on the need to make reasonable accommodations.

Implementing reasonable accommodation in employment settings may be as easy as an
employee approaching his/her supervisor or human resource official and requesting assistance to
remove a disability-related employment barrier.               Collaboration between the employer
representative and employee can take place on the same day. Disability-related barriers may be
obvious, solutions for removing the barriers readily achievable and may be implemented without
need for further dialog or information. The process of removing or alleviating the employment
barrier in these types of situations could take as little as a few hours or days to resolve.

Some situations are more complex and time consuming. Information concerning an applicant or
employee’s disability and functional limitations may not be readily apparent or available to the
employer. Disability-related employment barriers may not be obvious. Reasonable solutions for
removing the employment barriers may not be identified by either party or readily achievable.
Cooperation among affected parties may not be taking place in good faith. When this happens,
the reasonable accommodation process can take months, if not weeks, to complete. The longer
it takes to complete the process of accommodating an applicant or employee, the more
complicated things may often become. These are a few of the reasons why it is strongly
recommended that employers have a process (procedures for employer and employees to follow)
in place. Open and sincere channels of communication must be an integral part a process that is
supporting, not defeating.

Following are seven key procedural steps employers often follow to ensure that rights and
responsibilities of both employer and employee are honored during the accommodation process:

Evans, John P. 2003                                                                            A
1. Post Notification. The employer should post notification of the right for an applicant or
employee with disability to make an accommodation request and information on how to initiate
such a request. The employer should maintain internal procedures for addressing related requests
for reasonable accommodation. Applicants and employees with disabilities may not be aware
that they can ask for accommodations or whom to contact should they have the need. Posting
notification may be done via position announcements, during employee orientations, included in
employee handbooks, when there are performance issues, situations where an employee’s
disability is known to the employer, employee-based brochures or pamphlets and other means.

2. Request Accommodation. In general, it is the responsibility of the individual with a
disability to inform the employer that an accommodation is needed to perform essential job
functions or to receive equal benefits and privileges of employment. An employer is obligated to
make an accommodation only to the “known limitations” of an otherwise qualified individual
with disability. The individual with disability is “empowered” to notify the employer of the need
for accommodations. Information an employer will often need to implement an employee’s
request may include the: (1) type of disability, (2) functional limitations resulting from the
reported condition, (3) application or job requirement impacted by the disability, (4) what the
disability-related barrier is, and (5) what accommodation is being recommended for removing
the barrier. The accommodation request need not be made in writing, though it is encouraged.
Employees may request accommodations any time the job or disability necessitates the need.

3. Determine Eligibility. Determine if the individual requesting accommodation meets the
“Definition of Disability” under state or federal statutes and is thereby eligible to request
reasonable accommodations. Information obtained under a disability-related inquiry for
reasonable accommodation should be collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate
files and be treated as a confidential medical record. Disclosure of confidential records is
restricted. The employee’s right to privacy and confidentiality of disability related information is
paramount to the success of the reasonable accommodation process. Employers have an
obligation to release disability-related information on a “need-to-know” only basis. Information
concerning an employee’s disability may not be kept in personnel files. Requests for
accommodations are to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

4. Analyze Actual Job Involved. An individualized assessment may be necessary to determine
appropriate accommodations. An        individualized assessment means analyzing the actual job
duties and determining the true purpose or objective of a job. Such an assessment is necessary to
ascertain which job functions are the essential job functions that an accommodation should
enable an individual to perform. Depending on the nature of a position, essential functions may
include: (a) specific tasks and responsibilities assigned to a position; (b) administrative
requirements such as working hours or location; (c) tools and equipment necessary for successful
job performance; (d) physical and cognitive requirements such as lifting or handling multiple
priorities; (e) productivity requirements that include timelines, processes, quality or quantity; (f)
health and safety requirements mandated under state/federal occupational statutes; and (g) work
place conduct requirements.

5. Consult Individual with Disability. The accommodation process requires an individual
assessment of the specific physical or mental limitations of the particular person in need of
accommodation. Consult the individual with a disability to ascertain the precise job-related
limitations imposed by the individual’s disability and how those limitations could be overcome
with an accommodation. Employees should be prepared to assist the employer as needed to
understand where a disability-related employment barrier exists. As appropriate, the employer
has a right to request additional medical and/or vocational information as needed to implement
Evans, John P. 2003                                                                                B
an employee’s request for accommodation. Failure on the part of the employee to cooperate with
the employer’s need for information could jeopardize or delay the accommodation process. The
scope of an employer’s inquiry is limited to the reported condition and specific needs for

6. Identify Potential Accommodations.              In conjunction with the individual to be
accommodated, identify potential accommodations and assess the effectiveness each would have
in enabling the individual to participate in the application process, perform essential functions of
a job, or receive equal benefits of employment. Essential functions by definition are the
fundamental job duties (tasks and responsibilities) the individual who holds a job would have to
perform, with or without reasonable accommodation, in order to be considered qualified for the
position. The employer, as part of the process, may find that technical assistance is needed in
determining how to accommodate a particular individual in a specific situation. Depending on
the nature of a position and employment barrier, accommodation options have included:

         Adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies
         Provision of qualified readers or interpreters
         Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices
         Changes to existing facilities to make them readily accessible to and usable by workers
          with disabilities
         Job restructuring (re-assignment of marginal job functions)
         Part-time or modified work schedules
         Administrative leave
         Work at home (telecommuting)
         Re-assignment to a vacant position
         Changes in office communications
         Physical changes to the workplace
         Workplace policy modifications
         Adjustments in supervisory methods

7. Consider The Individual’s Preference. Consider the preference of the individual to be
accommodated and evaluate or implement the accommodation that is most appropriate for both
the employee and employer. If more than one accommodation will enable the individual to
perform the essential functions, or if the individual would prefer to provide his or her own
accommodations, the preference of the individual with a disability should be given primary
consideration. In circumstances where 2 types of accommodations are equally effective at
removing an employment barrier, the employer holds the ultimate discretion to select the
accommodation that is least difficult or expensive to implement. Not all accommodations work
and therefore it recommended that they be tested for feasibility. Returning to Step 6 may be
necessary to ensure Equal Opportunity.

Evans, John P. 2003                                                                               C

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