Note: The questions and answers provided within this Frequently Asked Questions section are general in nature. For specifics and additional clarification, contact your Mission Area/Agency and Staff Office Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator.
- What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
In relation to the Rehabilitation Act/ADA, a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done. Reasonable accommodations are provided to ensure a qualified applicant or employee with a disability can participate in the application process, perform essential functions of the job, and enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. The Agency is required to provide an effective reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship to the agency.
- What is a disability under the Rehabilitation Act/ADA?
Disability, with respect to an individual, means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. For more information, see: (29 CFR § 1630.2(g)
- Who is a qualified individual with a disability?
A qualified individual with a disability is an individual who has the skills, experience, education, and other requirements of the job the individual holds or desires and can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodations.
- What is a major life activity?
Major life activities include such things as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
- What are some examples of a RA?
The following are examples of RAs:
- Job Restructuring
- Flexible or Modified Work Schedules
- Equipment or Devices (i.e. ergonomic chairs/desks, readers); and
- Who is responsible for granting a RA?
The supervisor or hiring official is responsible for granting a RA.
- What are essential functions of a position?
Essential functions are the fundamental duties of the job the individual with a disability holds or desires, and that the individual who holds the job must be able to perform unaided or with the assistance of RA.
- When can medical documentation be requested?
The RA Coordinator may request medical documentation when needed during the RA process to support the RA request.
- Who can request medical documentation?
The RA Coordinator can request medical documentation. The RA Coordinator will request only that medical documentation that is necessary to process the request.
- Will medical documentation/information be kept confidential?
Yes, all documents and information are confidential.
- May telework be a Reasonable Accommodation?
Telework may be a reasonable accommodation depending on the essential functions of the position and the portability of the job. All reasonable accommodations decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
- May an employee request to bring a service animal or emotional support animal to work as a Reasonable Accommodation?
Yes, an employee may request to bring a service animal or emotional support animal (including a comfort or therapy animal) to work as a RA. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Regulations, Policies and Statutes
- What policy or regulation governs a request for a Reasonable Accommodation?
29 CFR Part 1630 and Departmental Regulation, 4300-008, _______.
- Is the supervisor allowed to disclose an employee's Reasonable Accommodation to another employee?
No, confidentiality applies to all aspects of the RA process. RA should only be disclosed to those who have a need to know, as outlined in Departmental Regulation 4300-008. The RA Coordinator may share certain information, without disclosing a disability, with an employee’s supervisor, manager or other agency official(s), as necessary, to make appropriate determinations on a request.
- What is Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act?
Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits Federal agencies from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on disability, requires Federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities, who are employees or applicants, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship, and requires agencies to engage in affirmative action for individuals with disabilities. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act comports with the Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (employment standards).
- What is Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA) prohibits private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments. Title I of the ADA requires an employer to provide RA to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship. These standards are set forth in the EEOC’s ADA regulations at 29 CFR Part 1630. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, comports with Title I of the ADA.
Reasonable Accommodation Process
- Who can request a Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation can be requested by an employee, applicant, or a family member, health care professional or other representative on behalf of the employee or applicant.
- I have a family member who is ill, and I need to help care for them. Am I eligible for a Reasonable Accommodation on that basis?
No, reasonable accommodations cannot be made to care for an ill family member. Reasonable Accommodations are only made when an employee has a medical condition that keeps him/her from being able to complete the essential functions of his/her job.
- What constitutes an undue hardship?
An accommodation may be considered an undue hardship if it creates significant difficulty or expense to the employer. That is, an employer would not be required to provide an accommodation if it is cost-prohibitive, not reasonably feasible to implement, requires extensive renovations, or would be disruptive or negatively affect other employees or customers. Undue hardships are determined on a case-by-case basis. Factors to take into consideration when determining whether an accommodation constitutes an undue hardship are:
- The cost and nature of the accommodation;
- The overall financial resources of the Agency;
- The type of operation of the Agency; and
- The impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility, including on co-workers and the public.
Ex. An employee’s request for completely fragrance-free facility posed an undue hardship on the agency. Leona L. v. DHS, 0120152781 (March 5, 2018).
- What steps should a supervisor and the Reasonable Accommodations Coordinator take after receiving a request for a Reasonable Accommodation?
The following are the steps a Supervisor and Reasonable Accommodations Coordinator should take in response to an accommodation request:
- The Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator will verify the employee's disability, when the disability is not obvious.
- The Supervisor will identify the essential job functions.
- The Supervisor will consult with the individual during the interactive process to identify what accommodations would be effective to reduce or remove barriers.
- The Supervisor may implement an effective accommodation, absent undue hardship, taking into account the preferences of the individual with disabilities.
- How does an employee or applicant request a Reasonable Accommodation?
Requests for a reasonable accommodation may be made either in writing or orally at any time during the application process or while employed. Requests for a reasonable accommodation can be made to the employee’s supervisor, manager, Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator (RAC), Human Resources Office, or contact identified in a vacancy announcement.
- How long does it take to process a Reasonable Accommodation request?
Generally, an RA request is processed within 30 business days (excluding extenuating circumstances). An interim accommodation may be offered until your RA request is approved and fulfilled if there are delays.
- May an employee request parking as a Reasonable Accommodation?
Employees requesting parking as a reasonable accommodation will follow agency procedures for reasonable accommodations. All reasonable accommodations decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
- Under what circumstance can an approved Reasonable Accommodation be reevaluated or changed?
An approved reasonable accommodation may be reevaluated under certain circumstances, including but not limited to:
- Responsibilities or essential job functions change;
- Staffing levels change;
- Facilities change;
- Employee’s medical condition changes; or
- the RA is no longer effective.
- Can a Reasonable Accommodation be reevaluated or changed if an employee’s supervisor changes?
Reevaluation of an approved reasonable accommodation may not be based solely on a change of supervisor.
- Does an employer have to change a person's supervisor as a form of Reasonable Accommodation?
No. An employer does not have to provide an employee with a new supervisor as a reasonable accommodation. Nothing in the Rehabilitation Act/ADA, however, prohibits an employer from doing so. Furthermore, although an employer is not required to change supervisors, a request for a new supervisor could form the basis for a request for accommodation. In certain circumstances, a supervisor may be required to adjust their supervisory methods as a reasonable accommodation, such as by providing more written or verbal instruction, adjusting their level of supervision, or providing more feedback.
- Is a supervisor required to provide the Reasonable Accommodation that the individual wants?
No, the supervisor is not required to provide the accommodation of choice but provide an effective accommodation that assists the employee in performing his/her essential job functions.
- Do I give my medical documentation(s) to my supervisor or human resources officer related to my Reasonable Accommodation (RA) request?
All medical documentation(s) related to your RA request should only be given directly to the Reasonable Accommodations Coordinator. A request for RA and medical documentation related to the RA request are strictly confidential.
Personal Assistance Services
- What are Personal Assistance Services (PAS)?
PAS means assistance for individuals with targeted disabilities with performing activities of daily living that an individual would typically perform if he or she did not have a disability, and is not otherwise required as a reasonable accommodation. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- assistance with removing and putting on clothing;
- eating; and
- using the restroom.
For more information, see: (29 CFR § 1614.203)
- What is a targeted disability?
A disability designated as a “targeted disability or health condition” on OPM SF-256 or a disability falling under one of the first 12 categories of disability listed in Part A of question 5 of the EEOC’s Demographic Information on Applicants Form. For more information, see: (29 CFR §1614.203)
- Who Is Eligible for PAS?
Employees with targeted disabilities, who require PAS because of those targeted disabilities, are eligible for PAS.
- When must an agency provide PAS?
Agencies are required to provide PAS to employees with targeted disabilities who require PAS because of their targeted disabilities unless to do so would cause an undue hardship. PAS may be required:
- During the workday, including during telework.
- During employer-sponsored events, such as a holiday party.
- During work-related travel, both work and off-work hours (as an RA).
- Must the agency provide PAS to help an employee commute to work? (Can I receive PAS to commute to work?)
PAS does not include assistance with an employee’s commute to work.
- Does PAS include medical services?
PAS does not include assistance performing medical procedures or medical monitoring.
- Does PAS help an individual perform their job functions?
PAS does not include helping individuals perform their specific job functions, that is the purpose of reasonable accommodation. The term personal assistance services means assistance with performing activities of daily living that an individual would typically perform if he or she did not have a disability, and that is not otherwise required as a reasonable accommodation, including, for example, assistance with removing and putting on clothing, eating, and using the restroom. For more information, see: (29 CFR 1614.203(a)(5))
- How do I request a PAS?
Requests for PAS may be made either in writing or orally at any time during employment. Requests for a PAS may be made to the employee’s supervisor, manager, Mission Area/Agency or Staff Office Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator, or HR servicing office.
- Can a request for PAS be denied?
A request for PAS can be denied when PAS are not needed, or when provision of the services would pose an undue hardship. The standards for an undue hardship are the same as those for reasonable accommodations.
- Is medical information and documentation confidential? (Will my medical information be kept confidential?)
Medical information obtained in connection with RA and PAS requests must remain confidential and be maintained by the Mission Area, agency, or staff office Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator.