Requesting Accommodations Generally
Informal Accommodation Requests
Formal Reasonable-Accommodation Requests
Types of Accommodations
Appeal and Informal Dispute Resolution
Appendix A--Reasonable-Accommodation Information Reporting Request
Appendix B--Selected Reasonable-Accommodation Resources
The Board complies with the reasonable-accommodation requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal government's equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Board's Rules Regarding Equal Opportunity (12 CFR § 268). Accordingly, this policy establishes the procedures for providing (1) qualified individuals with disabilities reasonable accommodations to enable them to perform the essential functions of their jobs, (2) employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations to ensure they enjoy the equal benefits and privileges of employment, and (3) job applicants with disabilities reasonable accommodations to assist them in applying for jobs at the Board.
Disability. With respect to an individual, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such individual's "major life activities." Major life activities include activities such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, performing manual tasks, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working, as well as the operation of major bodily functions such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. An impairment that is episodic or in remission may constitute a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
Equal benefits and privileges of employment. Those benefits, such as cafeteria service, fitness center access, or employee benefit plans, that are available (under the conditions and limitations established by the Board) to the Board's similarly situated employees without disabilities.
Essential functions. Those job duties that are so fundamental to the position that the individual holds or desires that he or she cannot do the job without performing them. A function can be essential if, among other things, the position exists specifically to perform that function, there are a limited number of other employees who could perform the function, or the function is specialized and the individual is hired based on his or her ability to perform it. Determination of the essential functions of a position must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis so that it reflects the job as actually performed and not simply the components of a generic position description.
Genetic information. This means genetic information as defined by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) and includes such information as an employee's or family member's genetic tests; an employee's family medical history (or manifestation of a disease or disorder in a family member); an employee's or family member's request for genetic services (as defined by GINA); an employee's or family member's participation in clinical research that includes genetic services; or genetic information of a fetus carried by an employee or an employee's family member or an embryo lawfully held by an employee or family member receiving assistive reproductive services. Genetic information does not include information about the sex, age, race, or ethnicity of an employee or family member.
Qualified. An individual with a disability, as defined in 12 CFR 268, is qualified for a position if (1) he or she satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position and (2) he or she can perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Reasonable accommodation. Any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that would not create an undue hardship for the Board and would enable (1) a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her job, (2) an employee with a disability to enjoy the equal benefits and privileges of employment, and/or (3) an individual with a disability to apply for a job at the Board.
Undue hardship. If a specific type of accommodation causes significant difficulty or expense, then the Board does not have to provide that particular accommodation. Determination of undue hardship is always made on a case-by-case basis, considering factors that include the nature and cost of the accommodation needed and the impact of the accommodation on the operations of the Board.
An employee can request either an informal accommodation or a formal reasonable accommodation, but only a request for a formal reasonable accommodation gives rise to the rights and obligations under the Rehabilitation Act. An informal accommodation is an accommodation the Board may make in the ordinary course of its business, such as an ergonomic equipment adjustment, whether or not the employee is disabled under the Rehabilitation Act. A formal reasonable accommodation is an accommodation the Board would make as a result of its legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act.
An employee does not need to use special words, such as "reasonable accommodation," "disability," or "Rehabilitation Act," when requesting an informal accommodation or formal reasonable accommodation. However, in order for the Board to know whether an employee is making an informal request versus a formal request for a reasonable accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act, the employee must state in the request whether the accommodation is due to a medical condition. If the employee does not state that the accommodation is due to a medical condition, the Board will assume the employee is making an informal accommodation request. Informal accommodation requests do not receive the same procedural protections as formal reasonable accommodation requests under the Rehabilitation Act.
The Board has an informal policy of making minor changes in office furniture and equipment (such as computers) and other similar adjustments to increase the comfort of employees who may not necessarily suffer from a disability or other medical condition.1
As noted above, informal accommodation requests will not receive the same procedural protections and considerations as formal reasonable accommodation requests under the Rehabilitation Act. Informal accommodation requests, which, in most cases, require no showing of medical necessity but do require a reason for the request, should be submitted to the employee's division administrator. The division administrator, in consultation with the division director, will decide whether to approve an informal accommodation request.2
Timing and Content of the Request
Timing. Individuals may request formal reasonable accommodations, orally or in writing, whenever they choose, even if they have not previously disclosed the existence of a disability.
Content. As noted above, a request for a reasonable accommodation need not use special words, such as "reasonable accommodation," "disability," or "Rehabilitation Act." However, the employee must state in his or her request that the request is due to a medical condition if the employee would like for the request to receive the procedural and other protections afforded under the Rehabilitation Act and this policy.
Information Reporting Form for Reasonable-Accommodation Requests
The Board employee who receives the request for accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act must fill out the applicable portions of the Reasonable-Accommodation Information Reporting Request form (the reporting form) and forward it to Employee Life, Human Resources (HR) Function, Management Division. The employee filling out the form may obtain assistance from the requester, but should in any event submit the form to Employee Life no more than five business days after the request was made. If additional information is needed to complete the form, the Employee Life staff member who receives the request will contact the requester to obtain the information and/or note why the missing information could not be obtained.
How to Submit a Request for a Reasonable Accommodation
Employees. Employees seeking a reasonable accommodation must request an accommodation from one of the following: (1) their immediate supervisor, (2) their second-level manager, (3) their division director, (4) the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, or (5) Employee Life.
Job applicants. A job applicant seeking a reasonable accommodation to apply for a job must request an accommodation from one of the following: (1) a recruiting specialist; (2) the Talent Acquisition Office, HR; (3) the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; (4) the manager in charge of the particular vacancy; or (5) a Board representative with whom the applicant has had substantial contact during the job-application process--for example, an interviewer.
Representatives of employees or applicants. An individual representing an employee or applicant, such as a family member, attorney, or health professional, may request a reasonable accommodation on the employee's or applicant's behalf. The request must follow the processes outlined above depending upon for whom (employee or applicant) the accommodation is requested. Board staff, where possible, should confirm with the employee or applicant that he or she, in fact, desires the requested accommodation.
Unless a disability and/or need for accommodation is obvious or already known, appropriate medical information will be needed, after a request is made, to make a determination on the employee's request for an accommodation. A disability is considered obvious if it is apparent to all observers that it substantially limits one or more of the requester's major life activities and there is no need for detailed medical documentation explaining the condition. For example, an employee's total blindness should be obvious and there would be no need to submit medical documentation to establish that a disability exists and that it substantially limits a major life activity. In addition, assuming the accommodation requested is designed to assist with blindness generally, there would be no need for the employee to submit medical documentation to support the need for the accommodation.
In all other cases, the extent and type of information required will vary depending on the nature of the disability and the accommodation requested. However, the Board will need to know the following information to make a determination under this policy: (1) the nature of the medical problem at issue; (2) the major life activity or activities that are substantially limited and how they are substantially limited; (3) the actual or expected duration of the medical problem; and (4) how the requested accommodation will address the individual's limitations and assist the individual in performing the essential functions of his or her job, enjoying equal benefits and privileges of employment, or applying for a job.
The Board has the right to request relevant supplemental medical information if the information submitted does not clearly explain and address all issues outlined above. The individual will be given a reasonable period to submit any necessary documentation. The Board has the right to have a medical expert of its choosing (and at its expense) review any medical documentation submitted. Failure to provide requested medical information may result in a denial of the request for an accommodation.
Under limited circumstances, the Board may require an individual requesting an accommodation to undergo a medical examination. If the individual has provided insufficient documentation from his or her health-care professional to substantiate the disability and/or need for the accommodation, the Board will explain why the documentation is insufficient and allow the individual an opportunity to provide the missing information in a timely manner. If, after an opportunity to submit additional information, the medical documentation is still insufficient, the Board may require the individual to be examined by a health-care professional of the Board's choice to substantiate the disability and/or need for the accommodation in order to continue to process the request for a reasonable accommodation.
Documentation is insufficient if, for example, (1) it does not establish the existence of a disability and explain the need for the reasonable accommodation requested, (2) it is from a health-care professional who does not have the expertise to give an opinion about the medical condition and the limitations imposed by it, (3) the information does not specify the functional limitations due to the disability, or (4) other factors indicate that the information provided is not credible or may be fraudulent. If the individual fails to provide sufficient documentation and refuses to be examined by a health-care professional of the Board's choice and at the Board's expense, the Board does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation until sufficient documentation is provided.
The scope of any medical examination must be limited to determining the existence of a disability and the functional limitations that require a reasonable accommodation.
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
GINA prohibits employers from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual, except as specifically allowed by this law. In accordance with GINA, when the Board requests medical information or conducts medical examinations, the Board will not seek to collect genetic information, and it will inform employees and health care providers responding to Board inquiries or working on the Board's behalf not to share genetic information with the Board.
Time Frame for Responding to a Request
The time limit for responding to a request for accommodation begins when the oral or written request is received by the appropriate Board representative as outlined above. Unless extenuating circumstances are involved, the chief human capital officer (CHCO) will respond to the request no later than 30 days after the request for accommodation was received. However, if the Board requests medical or other information, the period for responding will be extended by the number of days that the Board waited for a response to its request. If extenuating circumstances exist and the 30-day period must be extended, the CHCO will notify the individual of the delay, state the reason (or reasons) for the delay, and inform the individual of the date on which a decision is expected to be made. The Board will make reasonable accommodations prior to the expiration of the 30-day period if circumstances permit such expedited action. In addition, the period for processing a request may be expedited if, for example, the accommodation is needed to enable an individual to apply for a job or attend a Board activity that is scheduled to occur prior to the end of the 30-day processing period.
Where the existence of a disability, the need for accommodation, or the specific requested accommodation is not clear, or when the Board believes the requested accommodation is not reasonable or that another reasonable accommodation exists, Employee Life must, with the assistance of any other relevant parties, discuss the requested accommodation with the requester to determine whether a mutually acceptable, effective reasonable accommodation exists. A requester should cooperate with these efforts to the extent possible, as failing to do so may result in the denial of the request for reasonable accommodation.
Requests Involving Job Performance
The Board representative (or representatives) who receives an accommodation request involving job performance should advise Employee Life of the request by forwarding part I of the reporting form to Employee Life no later than five days after receipt of the request. Employee Life will promptly work with the employing division, as appropriate, to respond to the request. Absent extenuating circumstances, the CHCO will make a final determination as to how to respond to the request within 30 days of the date on which the Board received the request.
Requests by Job Applicants
The Board representative (or representatives) who receives a request for accommodation by a job applicant should advise Employee Life of the request by forwarding part I of the reporting form to Employee Life no later than five days after receipt of the request. Employee Life will promptly work with the manager in charge of the vacancy and other divisions, as appropriate, to resolve the request. Absent extenuating circumstances, the CHCO will make a final determination as to how to respond to the request within 30 days of the date on which the Board received the request.
Requests Involving Equal Benefits and Privileges of Employment
The Board representative (or representatives) who receives an accommodation request involving equal benefits and privileges of employment should advise Employee Life of the request by forwarding part I of the reporting form to Employee Life no later than five days after receipt of the request. Employee Life will promptly work with the other divisions, as appropriate, to resolve the request. Absent extenuating circumstances, the CHCO will make a final determination as to how to respond to the request within 30 days of the date on which the Board received the request.
The Board will consider a range of possible reasonable accommodations. The Board retains discretion to choose among any reasonable accommodation options that address the employee's disability, and is not required to provide the reasonable accommodation favored by the requester. Reassignment will be considered as a reasonable accommodation if the Board determines that no other reasonable accommodation will permit the employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his or her current position or if the only effective accommodation would cause undue hardship. In considering whether there are positions available for reassignment, Employee Life will work with the individual requesting the accommodation to identify (1) all vacant positions within the agency for which the employee may be qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation, and (2) all positions that HR knows will become vacant within a reasonable amount of time and for which the employee may be qualified. For example, if HR knows that a position for which the individual is qualified will become vacant in a week, that position should be considered for reassignment. Employee Life will first focus on positions that are equivalent to the employee's current job in terms of pay, status, and other relevant factors. If there is no vacant equivalent position, Employee Life will consider vacant lower-level positions for which the employee is qualified. If the Board is considering reassignment as an accommodation, the Board may consult with the affected employee as necessary to determine whether there are limitations on the search the employee would like the Board to conduct.
If the request for accommodation is granted, the accommodation will be provided at the same time as the response on the request for accommodation is given to the employee. If the accommodation will take longer to provide, the employee will be informed and told when the accommodation will be provided. Management's decision to provide a requested accommodation does not constitute an admission by the Board that the individual is disabled under the Rehabilitation Act.
A denial of a request for accommodation shall be in writing and shall identify the requester, the individual who made the decision, the specific accommodation requested, and the specific reasons for denying the request. Where the decision maker has denied a specific requested accommodation but offered a different one in its place (which was not agreed to during the interactive process), the denial notice should explain both the reasons for the denial of the requested accommodation and the reasons why the decision maker believes the offered accommodation will be effective. (If a requester agrees to an alternative accommodation during the interactive process, the request for accommodation will be deemed granted.) The written notice of denial must inform the individual of the right to initiate the EEO process under the Board's rules, by contacting an EEO counselor within 45 days of the denial of the request. The denial notice must also identify procedures that are available for informal dispute resolution.
If an individual wishes to appeal HR's decision, the individual must appeal to the director of the Management Division within 10 days of the date of HR's decision. Individuals may present additional information to support their request. The director will issue a decision on the appeal within 10 days unless extenuating circumstances exist. In addition, an individual who wishes to request informal dispute resolution should contact employee relations, which will arrange such dispute resolution.3 The individual must request informal dispute resolution within 10 days of HR's decision or, if that decision is appealed, within 10 days of the director's decision on appeal. An appeal or a request for informal dispute resolution stays the time for an employee to initiate the EEO process by contacting an EEO counselor. Once a decision on the appeal is issued, or informal dispute resolution is closed by the Board or the employee, or a decision is made and communicated to the employee that informal dispute resolution is not appropriate, the period to request EEO counseling begins for the employee who chooses to use that process.
Under the Rehabilitation Act and GINA, medical information and genetic information obtained in connection with the reasonable-accommodation process must be kept confidential. This means that all medical information, including information about functional limitations and reasonable-accommodation needs, that the Board obtains in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation must be kept in files separate from the individual's personnel file. It also means that any Board employee who obtains or receives such information is bound by these confidentiality requirements. In addition, all records will be maintained in accordance with the Privacy Act. In certain circumstances, medical information may have to be disclosed to those individuals with a need for the information. For example, information may be disclosed to
- a supervisor and manager who needs to be told about necessary restrictions on the work or duties of the employee and/or necessary accommodations;
- first aid and safety personnel if the disability might require emergency medical treatment or assistance in vacating the employee's office in the event of an emergency;
- government officials, if necessary, to investigate the Board's compliance with applicable laws;
- individuals who need the information in connection with processing a reasonable-accommodation request, a workers' compensation claim, or other insurance benefit;
- the Board's attorneys, if necessary, to advise the Board on legal issues arising under this policy; and
- individuals named in a court order or other legal process, if such disclosure is required by a court order or legal process.
The Management Division is responsible for administering this policy. The Management Division is solely responsible for maintaining all reporting forms, including information on the disposition of requests, and for reviewing information as necessary to ensure compliance with the Rehabilitation Act. This policy will be posted in all Board facilities and on the Board's internal website. Copies of this policy are available from HR. This policy is subject to change and will be reviewed and updated as necessary.
Appendix B--Selected Reasonable-Accommodation Resources
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 800-669-4000 (voice), 800-669-6820 (TTY), http://www.eeoc.gov
The EEOC has many free documents on the title I employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including both the statute, 42 USC 12101 et seq., and the regulations, 29 CFR 1630. In addition, the EEOC has published a great deal of basic information about reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. The three main sources of interpretive information are (1) the interpretive guidance accompanying the title I regulations (also known as the appendix to the regulations) (29 CFR 1630, appendix, and sections 1630.2(o) and (p) and 1630.9); (2) the Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (8 FEP Manual 405:7601 (1999)); and (3) A Technical Assistance Manual on the Employment Provisions (Title I) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:6981, 6998-7018 (1992) (the technical assistance manual)). The technical assistance manual includes a 200-page resource directory, including federal and state agencies, and disability organizations that can provide assistance in identifying and locating reasonable accommodations.
The EEOC also has discussed issues involving reasonable accommodation in the following guidances and documents:
- Enforcement Guidance: Pre-Employment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations (5, 6-8, 20, 21-22, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7191, 7192-94, 7201 (1995))
- Enforcement Guidance: Workers' Compensation and the ADA (15-20, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7391, 7398-7401 (1996))
- Enforcement Guidance: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities (19-28, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7461, 7470-76 (1997))
- Fact Sheet on the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (6-9, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7371, 7374-76 (1996))
- Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (20, 22, 23, 24-5, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7701, 7711, 7712-14, 7715-16 (2000))
Finally, the EEOC has a poster that employers and labor unions may use to fulfill the ADA's posting requirement.
All of the above-listed documents, with the exception of the technical assistance manual and the poster, are also available through the Internet at www.eeoc.gov. All of these documents provide guidance that applies to federal agencies through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 791).
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN), 800-526-7234 (voice), 877-781-9403 (TTY), http://askjan.org
A service of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, JAN can provide information, free of charge, about many types of reasonable accommodations.
- ADA Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs), 800-949-4232 (voice/TTY), http://adata.org
The DBTACs consist of 10 federally funded regional centers that provide information, training, and technical assistance on the ADA. Each center works with local business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to provide current ADA information and assistance, and places special emphasis on meeting the needs of small businesses. The DBTACs can make referrals to local sources of expertise in reasonable accommodations.
- Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, (703) 938-0030 (voice), (703) 939-0459 (TTY), http://www.rid.org
The registry offers information on locating and using interpreters and transliteration services.
- RESNA Technical Assistance Project, (703) 524-6686, http://www.resna.org
RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, can refer individuals to projects in all 50 states and the six territories offering technical assistance on technology-related services for individuals with disabilities. Services may include
- information and referral centers to help determine what devices may assist a person with a disability (including access to large databases containing information on thousands of commercially available assistive technology products);
- centers where individuals can try out devices and equipment;
- assistance in obtaining funding for and repairing devices; and
- equipment exchange and recycling programs.
1. For example, an employee may be able to type more comfortably if he or she uses a certain type of keyboard tray. If practicable, the Board may provide the employee with the requested tray. Return to text
2. Management's decision to provide an informal adjustment does not constitute a determination that the employee is disabled, as defined by the Rehabilitation Act, or that an adjustment or other type of accommodation is legally required. Return to text
3. Informal dispute resolution can include mediation, team building, climate assessments, job coaching, etc. Return to text