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1 University of New Mexico
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Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual - Policy 3110: Reasonable Accommodation for Employees with Disabilities

Date Originally Issued: 11-10-1997
Revised: 01-29-1999

Process Owner: Director, Office of Equal Opportunity

1. General

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 require that reasonable accommodation be given to a qualified employee with a disability if necessary for the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job. Also, it is in keeping with the University's values and goals to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. However, employees with disabilities are still required to adhere to all University policies including employment policies on conduct and performance. This policy provides specific guidelines to faculty, staff, and student employees on reasonable accommodation requirements.

2. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator for The University of New Mexico is the Director of the University Office of Equal Opportunity.

3. Criteria

The University shall make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, unless the University can show that providing an accommodation would impose an undue hardship.

3.1. Qualified Individual With a Disability

A qualified individual with a disability is a person with a disability who satisfies the skill, experience, and education requirements of the job he or she applies for or holds, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of that job.

3.1.1 Essential Functions

Essential functions are the fundamental (as opposed to marginal) duties of the job the individual applies for or holds.

3.2. Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way a job is normally performed that enables a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential functions of that job. Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to, the following actions.

  • Making facilities used by employees accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. 
  • Modifying a job so that a person with a disability can perform the essential functions of the job. This may involve eliminating nonessential elements of the job, switching assignments with another employee, or changing procedures. 
  • Using part-time or modified work schedules. 
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices. 
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters as appropriate. 
  • Reassigning or referring an employee with a disability to a vacant position if all attempts at other reasonable accommodation have not worked. (Note: The University does not have to create a position for an employee with a disability or promote or move an employee into a position for which he or she is not qualified.) 
  • Providing attendant services both in the office and while traveling on essential University business. (Note: The University does not have to provide personal equipment or services.)

Assessing and determining appropriate and effective reasonable accommodations must be done on a case by case basis.

3.3. Undue Hardship

The University does not have to make an accommodation, if the accommodation would create an undue hardship. To determine undue hardship, the University must consider the following factors:

  • the impact of the accommodations on departmental and University operations and delivery of services, 
  • the nature of the accommodation and cost in relation to the University's total budget, 
  • the number of University employees, and 
  • the number, type, and location of facilities.

4. Requesting and Determining Reasonable Accommodation

The supervisor and the employee with a disability should work together to arrange for necessary and reasonable accommodations. The University's ADA Coordinator can help in the following ways.

  • Working with the employee and supervisor to evaluate the essential functions of the employee's job. 
  • Providing technical assistance on ways to overcome functional limitations to performing the essential functions of the job. 
  • Working with specialists, such as rehabilitation technicians, health care providers, and potential vendors.
  • Recommending an effective accommodation for the employee, given the employee's request, the essential functions of the job, the effect on other employees and operations, and available funds.

4.1. Employee With a Disability--Roles & Responsibilities

It is the employee's responsibility to inform his or her supervisor of the need for an accommodation to perform the essential functions of his or her job. Employees are encouraged to submit a Reasonable Accommodation Request Form (Exhibit A.) to his or her immediate supervisor. However, verbal notification is sufficient to require the supervisor to take action. If the disability is not obvious, the employee is required to provide documentation from an appropriate source verifying the disability. The employee must assist the supervisor in determining what type of reasonable accommodation the employee should receive, including acceptable alternatives. The University must provide an effective accommodation, but not necessarily the accommodation desired by the employee. The University reserves the right to request additional medical documentation if necessary to:

  • determine the existence of a disability, 
  • determine the employee's or applicant's ability to perform the essential functions of the position involved, and 
  • assist in determining reasonable accommodation.

When the supervisor offers an accommodation, the employee must either accept or reject the offer in writing within two (2) weeks of the offer. If the employee rejects the accommodation, he or she must state why the proposed accommodation is not suitable. The supervisor must notify the University's ADA Coordinator. If an employee does not receive an agreed upon accommodation, the employee should contact the ADA Coordinator or file a claim with the Office of Equal Opportunity.

4.2. Immediate Supervisor's Roles & Responsibilities

When a supervisor receives a request for reasonable accommodation, he or she should verify the disability and identify the essential functions of the employee's job. Verification of the disability may be done visually if the disability is obvious. If the disability is not obvious, the supervisor may request appropriate medical documentation. All documentation directly related to an employee's disability must be kept in a separate confidential file. The supervisor should then work with the employee to determine an effective, reasonable accommodation. If the employee accepts the accommodation, the supervisor must ensure the employee receives such accommodation. If the accommodation is rejected by the employee, the supervisor must notify the University's ADA Coordinator.

4.3 Final Determination Made by the ADA Coordinator

In addition to helping employees and supervisors with requests for accommodations, the ADA Coordinator will review all disputes regarding requests for reasonable accommodation. The ADA Coordinator will verify that the employee has a disability and is a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA Coordinator will inform the employee and supervisor of the determination. If a disability requires accommodation, the Coordinator will work with the employee and supervisor to explore appropriate types of accommodation. The ADA Coordinator and the supervisor will agree on what type of accommodation will be offered to the employee and the supervisor will notify the employee of that determination. If the ADA Coordinator and the supervisor determine that no agreement can be reached with the employee, the ADA Coordinator and the supervisor are not required to negotiate with the employee. The determination of the ADA Coordinator is final.

5. Offers of Accommodation

All offers of accommodation are subject to applicable University policies. The following factors must be considered before agreeing on accommodation:

  • the type of accommodation the employee requests,
  • the type of accommodation offered to employees in similar circumstances (in the interest of consistency), 
  • alternative accommodation, and 
  • availability of the needed service or item.

6. Funding of Accommodation

The cost of accommodation is generally paid by the department where the employee with a disability works. If the department does not have funds available, the department should submit a request for funding to the next level of authority. This process continues up to the cognizant vice president. The vice president should contact the ADA Coordinator if additional funds are needed. The ADA Coordinator will refer additional funding issues to the University President.

7. Attachments

Exhibit A. - Reasonable Accommodation Request Form