University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Administrative Policy Statement
46.5



Policy on Reasonable Accommodation of Employees With Disabilities

(Approved by the Provost by authority of Executive Order No. 4 and the Executive Vice President by authority of Executive Order No. 5)



1.  Policy

University policy is to reasonably accommodate qualified faculty, staff, appointees and job applicants with disabilities. The policy includes medical residents and graduate student service appointees.

A disabled individual has the right to request and receive reasonable accommodation in all aspects of employment. This includes, but is not limited to: All phases of the employment, promotion and transfer process; benefits and leave administration; performance evaluation and compensation; and separation from employment.

The need for reasonable accommodation does not adversely affect an individual's consideration for employment, training, promotion, or opportunity to enjoy equal terms, benefits, privileges, or conditions of employment, including employer-supported social or recreational activities.

Information contained in communications regarding University activities or opportunities covered by this policy will be made available to an employee with a disability in a manner or format that is accessible to that employee.

This policy is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-11) and 45 CFR Part 84; Chapter 49.60 RCW; Chapter 162-22 WAC; and WAC 357-46-160 through 357-46-175.

2.  Definitions

a.   When Is a Person Regarded as Having a Disability?

For purposes of accommodation, a person is regarded as having a disability if he or she has a sensory, mental, or physical abnormality that has a substantially limiting effect upon the individual's ability to perform his or her job. An employee can show that he or she has a sensory, mental, or physical abnormality by showing that he or she has a condition that is medically cognizable or diagnosable, or exists as a record or history.

b.   What is Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation means modifying or adjusting practices, procedures, policies, job duties, or the work or application environment so that a qualified individual with a disability can perform a position's essential functions, and/or enjoy equal employment opportunity. Reasonable accommodation will be implemented as long as:

  #1 It is medically necessary (i.e., there is competent medical evidence establishing a relationship between the disability and the need for accommodation), and

  #2 It does not impose an undue hardship on the University.

c.   What Does It Mean to be a Qualified Individual With a Disability?

A "qualified individual with a disability" is a person with a disability who meets the skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position held or desired, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job.

d.   What Are a Position's Essential Functions?

Essential functions are the fundamental job duties or requirements of a position. Essential functions are such that they cannot be eliminated or substantially modified without changing the nature of the position. Essential functions do not include the marginal functions of the position.

e.   What is Equal Employment Opportunity?

Equal employment opportunity means an opportunity for a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential job functions or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment that are available to similarly situated individuals who are not disabled.

f.   What Is a Health Care Professional?

Health care professional means a person who is legally competent to diagnose and/or treat the particular medical condition or conditions which are the basis of the accommodation request.

g.   What Is Undue Hardship?

Undue hardship means, among other things, an excessively costly, extensive, substantial, or disruptive modification, or one that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the institution or program.

3.  How Does an Employee Request Accommodation?

An employee may make a request for reasonable accommodation to his or her supervisor or manager, to Human Resources (for staff employees including student hourly and temporary employees), or the Disability Services Office (for academic employees and appointees including graduate staff appointments). See the detailed description of the process.

The employee making the accommodation request is required, among other things, to cooperate throughout the accommodation process by attending meetings to discuss the employee's accommodation needs, timely provide current medical information, and provide documentation of skills, abilities, training, and/or work experience, as requested.

4.  How Does the University Respond to an Employee's Accommodation Request?

Upon notification of an employee's request for reasonable accommodation, the Human Resources Consultant (staff employees) or Disability Services Office representative (academic employees and appointees) will consult with the requestor to identify the disability-related barriers to job performance and usually to request medical documentation of the disabling condition (see Section 5 below for a discussion of medical documentation).

A supervisor or manager may not deny an individual's request for reasonable accommodation without first consulting with the unit's Human Resources Consultant or the Disabilities Services Office. A supervisor or manager with questions about the nature of a request or whether a request has actually been made should consult with Human Resources or Disability Services as soon as possible.

The University will assess how the requested accommodation or alternative accommodations may allow the requestor to perform the essential function of the position. The University may consult with other knowledgeable sources as necessary. The University will consider the requestor's preference. If there are two or more effective accommodations that would allow the individual with a disability to perform a job's essential functions, the University will select the accommodation to be provided.

5.  How is Medical Documentation Treated?

When an individual's disability is not readily apparent, the disability has not been previously documented, and/or the reasonableness of an accommodation request is not obvious, the University may request that the applicant or employee provide verification from a health care professional that he or she has the disability as claimed and that it has the effect of necessitating reasonable accommodation. The request for verification may ask the opinion of the health care professional as to whether the employee or applicant can perform the essential functions of the job and whether the requested accommodation is appropriate to the disability.

The University may obtain, from a health care professional of its own choice and at its own expense, determination or verification of the following:

  • That the individual has a disability;

  • That the disability necessitates reasonable accommodation;

  • Whether the individual can perform a job's essential functions;

  • Whether the requested accommodation is medically necessary;

  • Whether there may be effective alternative accommodations; and/or

  • Whether the employee is fit to perform the essential duties associated with his or her position.

To the extent possible and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, all information regarding the presence or nature of an individual's disability is treated as a confidential medical record and is maintained in a secure manner, apart from personnel files and with access restricted to designated personnel on a need to know basis.

6.  What Happens if an Employee Cannot Be Accommodated in His or Her Position?

If an employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his or her position because of a disability, with or without a medically necessary reasonable accommodation, or when accommodation in the present position would cause an undue hardship, the University will attempt to identify a position that is vacant in which to place the employee without competition. For placement to occur a vacant position must be available, it must have the same or lower salary level as the employee's position, and the employee must meet the position's minimum qualifications and skill requirements. The University does not create new positions, displace other employees, or offer a promotion as a form of accommodation. The position will normally be of the same type (e.g., regular, hourly, or student).

7.  What Happens if Accommodation, Including Placement in an Alternative Position, Is Not Possible?

If an employee cannot be accommodated, including placement in an alternative position, the employee will be separated from University employment after the employee's entitlements under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if any, are exhausted.

8.  What Help Is Available to Former Employees After a Disability Separation?

Employees who are separated because of disability are offered two years of post-separation assistance in applying for positions. Assistance can include such services as assessment of qualifications, help with the application process, and notification of appropriate openings.

9.  What Happens if an Employee Refuses an Accommodation or if the University Determines that an Employee Is Not Cooperating During the Accommodation Process?

A qualified individual with a disability can refuse an accommodation, but if the individual is unable or unwilling to perform the essential functions of a job at a satisfactory level without the accommodation, he or she will be separated from employment.

Refusal to cooperate in the accommodation process may result in separation.

10.  How Does the University Accommodate Job Applicants?

Job announcements and advertisements include notification of the right to make an accommodation request and information on how to make one. Staff that provide information about job openings and the application process are prepared to arrange and provide reasonable accommodations for applicants.

Timely response to an accommodation request is essential in providing equal opportunity. If a request for reasonable accommodation does not receive timely response, the University may extend application or other deadlines.

Qualification standards, employment tests, or other selection criteria may not screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability unless the tests or selection criteria are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

11.  How Does the University Determine if it Would Pose an Undue Hardship to Implement an Accommodation Request?

The following criteria, although not an exhaustive list, may be considered in determining undue hardship:

  • The nature and net cost of the accommodation needed;

  • The overall resources and structure of the program involved, and the requested accommodation's impact on them;

  • The overall financial resources of the University with respect to the number of employees and the number, type, and location of its facilities; and

  • The impact of the accommodation on the operation of the program, including the impact on the ability of other employees to perform their duties and the impact on the University's ability to conduct business.

Before concluding that a particular accommodation would impose an undue hardship, the University will consider whether there are alternative accommodations that would not constitute an undue hardship.

Tentative decisions to deny accommodation must be reviewed by the ADA Coordinator and the Office of the Attorney General before final action is taken.

When an accommodation request is denied because of undue hardship relating to facilities and equipment, an explanation will be provided by the appropriate dean or vice president.

12.  What Options Do Individuals Have if They Believe that Their Accommodation Requests Have Not Been Properly Handled?

The University has internal complaint procedures for addressing complaints about the conduct of University employees, including those who may be involved in the accommodation process. See Administrative Policy Statement 46.3 for a description of the available complaint procedures.

Individuals may also address complaints to external agencies.

13.  Additional Information

Questions regarding the application of this policy, or of Washington State Executive Order 96-04, may be directed to the appropriate Human Resource Consultant (for staff employees) or to the Disability Services Office (for academic employees and appointees). To request this information in an alternate format, contact the Disability Services Office:

  • Phone: 206-543-6450 (voice)
  • TTY Phone: 206-543-6452 (TTY)
  • Fax: 206-685-7264
  • Email: dso@u.washington.edu

For additional information go to the Disability Services Office website.

May 1, 2002; November 17, 2005.