Section 4.66 Reasonable Accommodations

Last Update: 10/2014



All executive branch supervisors must follow the procedures outlined below when determining the need for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. For more information, see “The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer” website.


Disability Definition


The term disability means, with respect to an individual:



To be protected under the ADA, an applicant/employee must have, have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial, as opposed to a minor, impairment. A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, or working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, or digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.


In order to be protected by the ADA, an individual with a disability must also be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The applicant or employee must satisfy the requirements for the job (such as education, employment experience, skills, licenses, or any other qualification standards that are job-related) and be able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.


Identify Essential Functions of the Position


The basic job duties an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation, are called “essential functions.” Each job should be examined to determine the essential functions or tasks.


Factors in determining whether a function is essential:



Supervisors must complete a Position Description Questionnaire with essential functions identified before advertising or interviewing any applicant.


The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will consider the following as evidence that a function is essential:



Applicant Requests for Accommodations


All interviews must primarily be based on determining the candidate best qualified to perform essential functions.


Ask all applicants, "Are you able to perform the essential functions of this position?"


It is against the law to ask an applicant whether they are disabled or about the nature or severity of a disability, or to require the applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer.


If the applicant indicates that he/she cannot perform an essential function or that he/she may need an accommodation, the supervisor may then ask if there is a reasonable accommodation that the applicant is familiar with that might allow him/her to perform that essential function. A supervisor should ask, "Are there any reasonable accommodations we might consider that will enable you to perform the essential functions of this job?" Reasonable accommodations are required if the applicant has a disability as defined by the ADA.


If the applicant is not familiar with a reasonable accommodation, or if the supervisor wants other assistance in identifying reasonable accommodations for that applicant, there are a variety of resources available to assist in this process.


It may be necessary to request specific, relevant medical documentation if a person indicates a need for a reasonable accommodation.


Employee Requests for Accommodations


The rights of employees in relation to the provision of reasonable accommodations are the same as for applicants. Applicants, as well as employees, must first meet the definition of a disability under the ADA.


The supervisor must be prepared to discuss essential job functions with employees.


If an essential function cannot be performed, the supervisor must then discuss the possible provision of reasonable accommodations that might enable the employee to perform the essential function.


The supervisor must ensure that the "Request for Reasonable Accommodation" form (CFN 552-0574) is completed for all employee requests.


It may be necessary to request specific and relevant medical documentation to justify the need for an accommodation for a person with a disability.


Resources for Providing Accommodation Assistance


A partial list of resources includes:










What is a "Reasonable Accommodation?"


ADA regulations define a reasonable accommodation as:





Examples: Modified work schedules; reassignment to a vacant position; acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; adjustments of exams, training materials, or policies; using readers or interpreters; making facilities accessible; or restructuring job duties.


When are Accommodations Not Reasonable?


When an accommodation requires significant difficulty or expense it may be unreasonable if it causes an "undue hardship" on the employer. Undue hardship arguments against providing an accommodation involve a balancing test that weighs the following factors based on the Americans with Disabilities Act:


·         The nature and cost of the accommodation

·         The financial resources of the organization

·         The number of employees at the location

·         The impact of the accommodation on the operation of the organization

·         The type of operation, including the composition, structure, and functions of the work force


If a certain accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must attempt to identify a different accommodation that would not pose such a hardship. If the undue hardship is because of cost, the employer should consider whether funding for the accommodation could come from an outside source. The applicant or employee with a disability must also be given the opportunity to provide the accommodation or pay for the portion of the accommodation that constitutes an undue hardship.


The ADA also recognizes a "direct threat" or safety exception. Where an employer can prove that an individual with a disability poses a direct threat to the health and safety of himself, other employees, or clients, the employer can refuse to employ that individual on the grounds that an accommodation would be ineffectual. This determination must be made on a case by case basis.


Such a defense must be based on a high probability of substantial harm, not speculation or a remote risk. Only objective, factual evidence will support this defense. The specific behavior on the part of the individual involved that causes the direct threat must be identified. Factors to consider in evaluating the threat include:



The employer must also consider whether the risk can be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level with a reasonable accommodation.


Instructions for Completing a Request for Reasonable Accommodation


The Request for Reasonable Accommodation form is to be completed by an agency considering hiring a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to perform one or more essential functions of a specific position.


This form must be completed for those applicants receiving consideration in a final group of applicants who are considered to be substantially equally qualified for the position. The form must be completed before an offer to hire is made.


The purpose of this form is to provide agencies with a means to document the decisions they have made in relation to providing accommodations to persons with a disability. This documentation must be retained in agency files to ensure that the agencies have complied with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


It is the responsibility of the supervisor to make sure Sections A, B, and C of the Request for Reasonable Accommodation form are completed. Section A is to be completed and signed by the applicant or employee. Section B must be completed by the supervisor conducting the interview or the discussion with the employee. Section C must be completed by an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. Appropriate professionals include, but are not limited to, doctors (including psychiatrists), psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals. Section D must be completed by the appropriate Appointing Authority for the agency.


One copy of the completed form must be given to the applicant or employee involved.


Where appropriate, supporting documentation such as reports from appropriate medical personnel should be attached.


The Request for Reasonable Accommodation form, related correspondence, and medical information about an individual’s disability must be maintained in confidential files that are kept separate from the personnel file.