Policies & Procedures
Tulane University is committed to reasonable accommodation requirements, non- discrimination, and employment of qualified individuals with disabilities in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state and local laws and ordinances, unless to do so would cause undue hardship.
Tulane provides reasonable accommodations:
- When an applicant with a disability needs an accommodation in order to be considered for a job;
- When an employee with a disability needs an accommodation to enable him or her to perform the essential functions of the job or to gain access to the workplace; and
- When an employee with a disability needs an accommodation to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
Who is Covered
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against a qualified person with a disability in employment practices such as job application procedures, hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, training, benefits and other conditions of employment. The Americans with Disabilities Act also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. If an individual has a disability, he or she must still be otherwise qualified for the job and able to perform its essential functions with or without accommodation. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person may be considered to have a disability if (1) he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of having such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. In general, temporary non- chronic impairments of short duration with little or no long term or permanent impact are usually not disabilities. Such impairments may include, but are not limited to broken limbs, sprained joints, concussions, appendicitis and influenza.
In addition to compliance with non-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the University is required to provide reasonable accommodations to the known limitations of qualified persons with disabilities. A known disability is one that is either visible or made known by information volunteered by the person with a disability. A request for an accommodation should be initiated by the employee. When a qualified individual with a disability requests an accommodation, the University will make a good faith effort to provide an effective accommodation within a reasonable amount of time after the request.
I. Definition of Key Terms
- Reasonable Accommodation: A Reasonable Accommodation is a change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities.
- Qualified Individual with a Disability: An individual with a disability is qualified if (1) s/he satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position; and (2) s/he can perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
- Essential Functions: Those job duties that are so fundamental to the position that the individual holds or desires that s/he cannot do the job without performing them. A function can be “essential” if, among other things the position exists specifically to perform that function; there are a limited number of other employees who could perform the function, or the function is specialized and the individual is hired based on his/her ability to perform it. Determination of the essential functions of a position must be done on a case-by-case basis so that it reflects the job as actually performed, and not simply the components of a generic position description.
- Undue Hardship: When a reasonable accommodation is unduly costly, extensive, substantial, disruptive or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the department or university. Determination of undue hardship is always made on a case-by-case basis, considering factors that include the nature and cost of the reasonable accommodation needed and the impact of the reasonable accommodation on the operations of the university. If a particular accommodation would pose undue hardship, the university will try to identify another accommodation that will not present a hardship.
- Extenuating Circumstances: Factors that could not reasonably have been anticipated or avoided in advance of the request for accommodation e.g., an outstanding initial or follow-up request for medical information, or the evaluating of the medical information by the manager of disability services or an accommodations committee.
II. Requests for Reasonable Accommodation and Assessing Reasonableness
A request for reasonable accommodation is a statement that an employee needs an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. A request does not have to use any special words, such as "rehabilitation act," "reasonable accommodation," or "disability." This request must be submitted to the Office of Disability Services. An employee with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation even if he/she has not previously disclosed the existence of a disability. Employees are not required to disclose to their supervisor the medical basis for the requested accommodation.
When an employee with a disability requests an accommodation, the Office of Disability Services will:
- Obtain the employee’s current job description from employee, supervisor, and/or Human Resources;
- Obtain a list of essential job functions from supervisor or Human Resources;
- Consult with the employee to determine the precise job related limitations imposed by the disability and how those limitations could be overcome with a reasonable accommodation;
- Request adequate documentation of the disability. The employee may provide documentation from an appropriate professional health care addressing the nature of the disability, the functional limitations on the individual in the workplace and what accommodations are recommended;
- In consultation with the dean, director and/or department head and other resources, i.e. the job accommodations network, Disability Services will identify potential accommodations and assess the effectiveness each would have in enabling the individual to perform the essential functions of the position; and,
- Consider the preference of the individual to be accommodated and select the accommodation that best serves the needs of the individual and the university.
III. Written Requests for Record Keeping Purposes
Employees are responsible for requesting disability related workplace accommodations. To enable the Office of Disability Services to keep accurate records regarding requests for accommodation, employees seeking a reasonable accommodation must follow up an oral request by coming to the Office of Disability Services and completing an "Employee Information Questionnaire." This will serve as a written confirmation for employees seeking a reasonable accommodation.
IV. Responsibilities Involved in Requesting an Accommodation
The Office of Employee Relations in the Office of Human Resources is responsible for assisting the Office of Disability Services in determining essential functions and reasonable accommodations and for assisting departments with implementation of reasonable accommodations, when necessary.
The Office of Disability Services is responsible for administering requests for disability related workplace accommodations; determining what supporting documentation is necessary; determining reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities in conjunction with the employee’s supervisor, the employee, and Human Resources (when necessary); and, maintaining the documentation related to the request for accommodation.
- The Office of Disability Services will coordinate requests for adaptive equipment, including information technology and communications equipment or specially designed furniture with Technology Informational Services (TIS) or facility services.
- The Office of Disability Services will work to obtain or coordinate requests for a reader or sign language interpreter with the Office of Human Resources.
- The Office of Disability Services will coordinate requests for the removal of an architectural barrier(s) with facility services.
- The Office of Disability Services will coordinate requests for accessible parking with the university’s traffic office.
- The Office of Disability Services will coordinate requests for reassignment to another job with the Office of Human Resources. If no accommodations are available to enable the individual to perform his or her current job and the employee would like to apply for other jobs within the university, the Office of Human Resources will assist the employee in this process.
- The Office of Disability Services will coordinate requests for materials in alternative formats (e.g., braille, large print) with the employee’s dean, director and/or department head.
V. The Interactive Process
The interactive process determines what, if any, accommodation should be provided.
- The employee initiates accommodation request either to their supervisor or directly to the Office of Disability Services.
- The employee shall submit a written request to the Office of Disability Services by filling out an "Employee Information Questionnaire."
- The Office of Disability Services will meet with the employee, acknowledge the request and explain the process.
- The Office of Disability Services will consult with the employee to determine how his/her impairment limits performance of the essential job functions. It will be necessary to obtain additional information in order to effectively address the request for accommodation. The Office of Disability Services may request the employee to provide documentation from an appropriate professional health care addressing the nature of the disability, the functional limitations on the individual in the workplace and what accommodations are recommended.
- The Office of Disability Services will verify the employee has a disability and is otherwise qualified for the job and able to perform the essential functions. The Office of Disability Services will work with the supervisor, employee, and Human Resources, if necessary, to identify reasonable accommodation options. The accommodation that best serves the needs of the individual and the university will be selected.
- If the proposed accommodation is acceptable to the employee, the supervisor, employee, Office of Disability Services, and Human Resources, they will work together to implement the accommodation.
The department bears the initial responsibility for funding the accommodation. If the cost is beyond the department’s means, the department should submit a request for funding to the next level of authority.
VII. Confidentiality Requirements Regarding Medical Information Obtained in the Reasonable Accommodation Process
Under the Rehabilitation Act, medical information obtained in connection with the reasonable accommodation process must be kept confidential. This means that all medical information, including information about functional limitations and reasonable accommodation needs, that the Office of Disability Services obtains in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation must be kept in files separate from the individual's personnel file. It also means that any University employee who obtains or receives such information is strictly bound by these confidentiality requirements.
- The Office of Disability Services will maintain custody of all records obtained or created during the processing of a request for reasonable accommodation, including medical records, and will respond to all requests for disclosure of the records. All records will be maintained in accordance with the Privacy Act and the requirements of 29 C.F.R. 1611 and EEOC Order 150.003.
- This information may be disclosed only as follows:
- persons on a need to know basis, i.e., managers, supervisors, etc. may be told about necessary restrictions on the work or duties of the employee and about the necessary accommodation(s), but medical information should only be disclosed if strictly necessary.
- first aid and safety personnel may be informed, when appropriate, if the disability might require emergency treatment;
- government officials may be given information necessary to investigate the university’s compliance with the Rehabilitation Act; and
- the information may in certain circumstances be disclosed to workers' compensation offices or insurance carriers, if necessary.
Whenever medical information is disclosed, the individual disclosing the information must inform the recipients of the information about the confidentiality requirements that attach to it.
VIII. Granting a Reasonable Accommodation Request
As soon as the manager of Disability Services determines that a condition is a disability under ADA law and reasonable accommodation will be provided, a letter to that effect will be sent to the employee. A copy of this letter will be sent to your dean, director and/or department head. In addition, a copy will be sent the Office of Human Resources (504-865-5280, tulane.edu/wfmo/). This letter is confidential and will not be placed in any employee’s personnel folder. All disability documentation shall be kept in separate, confidential folders.
IX. Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Request
(The failure of an employee to provide appropriate documentation or to cooperate in the Office of Disability Services efforts to obtain such documentation can result in a denial of the reasonable accommodation.)
When it is determined that a request for reasonable accommodation will be denied, a letter explaining the reason for denial will be sent to the employee.
X. Informal Dispute Resolution
Employees with disabilities can request prompt reconsideration of a denial of reasonable accommodation.
- If an employee has concerns regarding the denial of reasonable accommodation or the specific accommodation selected by the university and wishes reconsideration, he/she is encouraged to review the process with the Office of Disability Services. The employee may present additional information in support of his/her request. If the employee disagrees with the determination or proposed accommodation or believes he/she has been discriminated against based on the disability, the employee should contact the Office of Institutional Equity (504-862-8083, tulane.edu/equity/).