Employee Disability Accommodation in the Workplace
Approved at the President’s Advisory Council, May 17, 2011
Updated November 2015
Statement of Philosophy
The guiding values of Norwich University state that we hold our people and our reputation in highest esteem. This policy is a reflection of the esteem in which we hold the members of our community who currently have disabilities or who may become disabled in the future. Norwich University is committed to creating and maintaining a community in which all members, including those with disabilities, can work together in an environment free from harassment, exploitation and intimidation. The university is committed to providing reasonable accommodations which will allow members of the community with disabilities to continue working. The university recognizes that doing so is in the best interest of the institution as a whole.
Section One: Statement of Non-Discrimination
Norwich University is committed to providing a positive educational and work environment that recognizes and respects the dignity of all community members. This goal cannot be a reality unless each individual can learn, work and achieve to the full extent of her/his capabilities unencumbered by artificial or preferential restrictions or requirements.
Norwich University takes positive action to insure that all applicants for employment are considered and employees are treated in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing non-discrimination with regard to an individual’s disability.
Further, the University is positively committed to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities in employment and admissions. The Norwich University Non-Discrimination Policy prohibits unlawful acts of discrimination or harassment (see Non-Discrimination Policy).
In addition, even if not illegal, acts are prohibited if they discriminate against any University community members (s) through inappropriate limitation of employment opportunity, access to University residential facilities, or participation in educational, athletic, social, cultural, or other University activities on the basis of an individual’s disability.
For information, counseling, or to file a complaint of discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, age, or veteran’s status, contact the Equal Opportunity Office, 321A Jackman Hall, x2144.
Section Two: Definitions and Procedures: FAQ
What must employers provide?
Employers covered by the ADA have to make sure that people with disabilities: have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs and to work in jobs for which they are qualified; have an equal opportunity to be promoted once they are working; have equal access to benefits and privileges of employment that are offered to other employees, such as employer-provided health insurance or training; are not harassed because of their disability.
What disabilities are covered by this policy?
Employees must have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activity, have a record of such an disability, or be regarded as having such an disability to be covered under this policy. Major life activities include, among numerous others, the ability to walk, perform manual tasks, see, sleep, or hear. Also, to qualify, the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without some accommodation.
What is the University required to do?
The University is required to make reasonable accommodation for the documented physical or mental disability of otherwise qualified individuals unless it results in undue hardship for the University. Undue hardship means that providing the reasonable accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense based on resources and the operation of the University. Where more than one accommodation would work, the University may choose the one that is less costly or is easier to provide.
What are accommodations?
Accommodations are adjustments or modifications provided by an employer to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Accommodations vary depending upon the needs of the individual, applicant or employee. Not all people with disabilities (or even all people with the same disability) will require the same accommodation.
What kinds of modifications or adjustments to job duties are not considered reasonable accommodations?
In the event that the disability requires fundamental alterations to job performance or production standards, the employee understands that the University has no legal obligation to do so.
When may the University ask questions regarding a disability?
The ADA strictly limits the circumstances under which the University may ask questions about disability or require medical examinations of employees. Such questions and exams are only permitted when the University has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that a particular employee will be unable to perform essential job functions or will pose a direct threat because of a medical condition. The University is able to ask questions related to an individual’s disability and require a medical examination of an employee whose medical condition appears to be causing performance or safety problems, or when an employee requests an accommodation.
How does the University respond when an employee requests an accommodation?
The disability accommodation process is interactive and requires cooperation and communication between the individual requesting accommodation and the University. All parties actively participate in the accommodation process by communicating their needs and interests and attending any meetings that may be necessary to discuss the accommodation request. As a general first step, the employee must provide a diagnosis, prognosis, and details regarding the employee’s limitations (see Section Three below). The doctor will be provided with a written job description for the employee’s job, if available. The University reserves the right to get a second opinion from a doctor selected by the University, at no cost to the employee.
What happens when an employee with a disability is unable to perform required job functions?
In the event that an employee with a disability is unable to perform the essential job functions, the University Policy on Medical and Sick Leave applies.
How will the University protect employee privacy?
Unless required by law, the University will keep confidential any medical information learned about an applicant or employee. Information can be confidential even if it contains no medical diagnosis or treatment course and even if it is not generated by a health care professional. Records will be kept in the Human Resources Office, but separately from the employee’s official personnel file.
Periodically, the University will review all cases covered by this policy to ensure compliance with the law.
Section Three: Documentation of Disability Procedure
Any University employee who has identified him or herself as having a disability shall submit the following as written documentation in order for accommodations to be made.
As appropriate to the type and severity of the disability, written documentation must include: A comprehensive medical, psychological or psychiatric report by an appropriate licensed professional diagnostician. This report must contain:
- Date of evaluation and/or date of original diagnosis and diagnostic statements identifying the disability with a medical or DSM-IV code. Materials must be reasonably current, depending on the condition and workplace accommodations sought.
- Detailed explanation of current/future functional impact of the condition.
- Services, accommodations, treatment, medication and/or assistive devices currently in use or prescribed.
- Credentials of diagnostic personnel (all materials must be on standard letterhead with the actual signature of the medical professional).
Section Four: Requesting Accommodations
When appropriate documentation is available related to a disability which may directly affect the performance of an employee, the following procedure must be followed before any accommodation can be provided.
- Documentation materials will go to the Director of Human Resources or designee for review. If submitted documentation is not sufficient, the employee will be advised in writing that further evaluation/verification is needed. The employee may be asked to sign a written authorization allowing the Director of Human Resources or a designee to talk with the employee’s physician regarding the accommodation.
- The Director of Human Resources will determine employee eligibility for accommodations. A meeting between the employee and Director will take place at which time reasonable accommodations will be discussed. The employee may be accompanied by a member of the University community to assist with the communication process. In addition, medical practitioners, therapists or interpreters may be included, if required. If accommodations are deemed necessary and appropriate, a written accommodation plan will be issued. If an accommodation plan is not deemed necessary or appropriate, a statement of finding to this effect will be issued. All such statements will be retained in a file separate from the employee’s Human Resources file.
- The Director of Human Resources, at the signed request of the employee, will send copies of the accommodation plan to supervisors and colleagues designated by the employee. The Director of HR will remain available to confer with all involved parties regarding the appropriate and effective execution of all allowed accommodations. A written statement of agreement will be prepared and signed by all involved parties and placed in the employee’s file.
- Decisions about any specific adjustments to the accommodation plan will be made only after consultation with the employee and consideration of available pertinent information. The Director of HR may then revise the plan of accommodation and secure all appropriate signatures.
- All efforts shall be made by all University agents involved to complete this process as expeditiously as possible.
Section Five: Appeal Process
The following shall be the procedure of appeal if an employee wishes to dispute the processes or outcomes related to accommodations requested or granted to accommodate an employee disability. The appellate authority for this process is the Director of Learning Support or designee.
- A written statement of appeal will be sent by the employee to the appellate authority within thirty calendar days of the date of the employee’s receipt of the accommodation plan decision. This statement shall include all relevant information, should request remedial action desired, and should provide release of all relevant supporting information including medical documentation.
- The appellate authority will review the decision, accommodation plan and all relevant supporting information.
- The appellate authority may confer with the employee, the supervisor, the Director of Human Resources and all knowledgeable medical providers and others deemed necessary for an appropriate review. It is expected that this review will be completed within 30 calendar days; if additional time is required, the appellate authority shall notify the employee in writing. There will be a periodic update in writing every 30 days.
- Based on this review, the appellate authority will determine whether or not the plan as developed is appropriate and whether or not remedial action as requested is warranted.
- A written decision by the appellate authority will be sent to the employee.