The Catholic University of America

Reasonable Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities Policy

 

Approved by: President
History: Issued    -- June 19, 2007  
  Revised  -- December 9, 2008  
  Additional History
Related Policies: FMLA Policy, Sick Leave Policy
Additional References: OGC ADA web page; EEOC Enforcement Guidance
Responsible Official: Equal Opportunity Officer/Director Employee Relations tel. (202) 319-6594

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I.          Introduction

It is the policy of The Catholic University of America (CUA) to provide reasonable accommodations upon request for qualified individuals with a disability who are employees or applicants for employment. CUA will adhere to all applicable federal and local laws, regulations and guidelines with respect to providing reasonable accommodations as required to afford equal employment opportunity to qualified individuals with a disability.

II.         Definitions 

A.         ADA/504 Coordinator: The Chief EEO Officer acts as the Coordinator for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  

B.         Disability: Disability means, with respect to an individual:

·       A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such an individual;

·       A record of having such an impairment; or

·       Being regarded as having such impairment. 

C.         Essential Function: A job function is essential if removal of that function would fundamentally change the job, the position exists to perform that function, the function is highly specialized, or there are a limited number of employees who can perform that function.  

D.         Major life activities: This includes, but is not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and 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, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. 

E.         Physical or mental impairment is (a) a physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss including but not limited to epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, or substantial hearing or vision impairment or (b) a mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities. Examples of conditions that would not be disabilities are short-term, non-chronic conditions such as a broken leg, a sprain or the flu. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.  

F.         Qualified Individual with a Disability: A person who with a disability who satisfies the requisite skills, experience, education, and other job related requirements of the job he/she seeks to hold, and who, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.  

G.        Reasonable Accommodation: A reasonable accommodation is any modification or 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 may include but is not limited to: making facilities accessible, adjusting work schedules, restructuring jobs, the reallocation or redistribution of non-essential, marginal job functions, providing assistive devices or equipment, and modifying work sites. A leave of absence may also be considered where necessary, in conjunction with the FMLA policy and CUA's sick leave policy, as well as any collective bargaining agreements.  

H.         Substantially limits means a material restriction of the duration, manner or condition under which an individual can perform a major life activity when compared to the average person's ability to perform that same major life activity. Temporary impairments that take significantly longer than normal to heal, long-term impairments, or potentially long-term impairments of indefinite duration may be disabilities if they are severe. Evaluate whether the impairment substantially limits any of the major life activities of the person in question, not whether the impairment is substantially limiting in general. The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to effects of mitigating measures such as medication, medical supplies, hearing aids, etc. For example a person with diabetes will still qualify as an individual with a disability, even though the individual may have minimal impairment while on insulin. The one exception is eyeglasses or contact lenses. The effects of corrective lenses on one's vision shall be considered in determining substantially limits. Thus, a person with good vision with corrective lens will not be considered disabled.

III.        Policy

   A.         Employee Responsibility 

Employees are responsible for initiating requests for any desired disability related workplace accommodation, unless the need for the accommodation is obvious. Where circumstances permit, the employee should notify the employer in writing. An employee should first make a request for a reasonable accommodation to his or her supervisor with a duplicate copy sent to Human Resources (HR), or to the Equal Opportunity (EO) Office. The employee making the request is required to cooperate throughout the process by attending meetings to discuss the needed accommodation and timely providing medical documentation where necessary. 

B.         Applicants

Applicants who may need an accommodation for a disability to participate in the selection process should contact the EO Office. 

C.         Interactive Process

The interactive process through which the employee provides any necessary medical documentation and the employer works with the employee to decide upon what accommodation is reasonable will occur between the Equal Opportunity Officer and the employee who is seeking the accommodation. Consultation with other offices (such as CPIT for technological solutions) will be made as necessary within the confidentiality requirements of the regulations. What constitutes a reasonable accommodation will be made on a case by case basis, utilizing input from the affected employee whenever possible. The EO Office is responsible for documenting all reasonable accommodations. 

D.         Supervisor Responsibility

Supervisors and the Office of Human Resources are responsible for notifying the EO Office of any employee accommodation or request for accommodation brought to their attention. Note that in certain circumstances it may be appropriate for the employer to initiate the accommodation process. This should only be done in consultation with the EO Office.

Once a reasonable accommodation has been agreed upon as noted in section C above, supervisors are responsible for implementing the reasonable accommodation. Supervisors have the responsibility to keep the request confidential except as necessary for the accommodation. Supervisors are also responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of the accommodation, in consultation with the employee.  

  E.         When a Reasonable Accommodation is not Required

The university is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would impose undue hardship on the employer. Undue hardship refers to any accommodation that would be unduly costly, expensive, substantial or disruptive, or that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

Employers are not required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are solely regarded as disabled and are not actually disabled.

The university is not required to employ an individual who poses a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of self or others and who cannot perform the job at a safe level even with reasonable accommodation. In determining whether an individual poses a significant risk of harm, the employer must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: 

  • the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; 
  • the imminence of the risk; 
  • the probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and  
  • whether reasonable modification of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk. 

The EO Officer will consult with the Office of General Counsel before denying a reasonable accommodation. 

F.         Recordkeeping

All employee and employment records must be kept for period of two years, as required by the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Centralized recordkeeping of requests for and implementation of reasonable accommodations should be kept in a confidential file in the Equal Opportunity Office.  

G.        Posting

The ADA requires that employers post a notice describing the provisions of the ADA. This posting, as well as this policy, must be made accessible, as needed, to individuals with disabilities.