AFGE Local 476 header

Reasonable Accomodations

reasonable accommodation graphic with wheelchair

In spite of the image of a wheelchair that we typically use to represent disabilities, providing reasonable accommodations goes beyond having a wheelchair ramp and an elevator. If there is a barrier—which may not be a physical one—that interferes with you doing your work due to a medical condition (disability) that substantially limits one or more major life activities, you may need a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation guidance for HUD employees can be found in Article 45 of our contract and the HUD Handbook 7855.1, Procedures (or Providing Reasonable Accommodation (or Individuals with Disabilities.

Federal Reasonable Accommodation Guidance

The policies and procedures related to reasonable accommodations are governed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008; Executive Order 13164; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations implementing the ADA. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies the standards of the ADA to the federal sector. The EEOC provides a useful set of FAQs related to reasonable accommodations.

Definitions

Disability: Under the ADA, a disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual.” A disability exists even when the individual uses medication, physical aids, or other forms of assistance to mitigate the effects of the disability. The disability also exists even if its effects are episodic or in remission if they are substantially limiting when active.

Essential functions: An individual with a disability must be able to perform the fundamental job duties of the position the individual with a disability holds or desires either with or without an accommodation.

Major life activities: A disability may affect an individual in ways that are less obvious than not being able to use all four limbs or not being able to see or here. Major life activities also include all “major bodily functions,” even those that may not be readily apparent. Mental as well as physical disabilities may limit major life activities.

Reasonable accommodation: An accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. The accommodation must be effective, meaning it meets the needs of the individual. The accommodation must be reasonable in order to require the employer to provide it. It is reasonable as long as it does not cause undue hardship or removing an essential function of the job.

If You Have a Disability

Your first step is to identify the workplace barrier that affects your ability to perform the essential functions of your position.

Then you need to inform your supervisor, manager, employee/labor relations specialist, human resources specialist, or the disability program manager that you need an accommodation to eliminate a barrier that exists due to a medical condition. You may use the HUD 1000 form to request a reasonable accommodation or you may request it orally, by email, or by any other method. You may have a representative, such as a Union steward or a family member, make the request for you.

Your request for a reasonable accommodation should make clear that the medical condition meets the definition of a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

The request should clearly identify the barrier. It is helpful if the request also identifies the accommodation that will remove the barrier.

You do not need to go into medical details when you describe the problem or the barrier.

Once You Submit Your Request

Once you make a reasonable accommodation request, your supervisor should engage in an interactive process with the employee. This is meant to be an informal way to clarify what you need. The interactive process is not always required, such as when the disability and need are both obvious and within the Department’s ability to provide promptly.

Be prepared to provide documentation to support your request, such as a letter from your medical professional. Management may require only the documentation that is needed to establish that a person has an ADA-covered disability, and that the disability necessitates a reasonable accommodation. Management may not request your complete medical records.

What if Your Request is Denied?

Management may only deny a reasonable reasonable accommodation if it would cause "undue hardship." "Undue hardship" means significant difficulty or expense at the agency level, not just for your branch or division. Undue hardship also refers to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. Requests may not be denied based on "policy" because a change or exceptions to a policy is a form of reasonable accommodation.

Any disapproval of a reasonable accommodation must be made in writing in plain language providing the detailed reasons for denial of the accommodation, if alternate accommodations were considered and what was considered.

If management denies the request, the manager is required to complete a form HUD-11600, Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Request. That form (and the handbook) lists appeal options that are similar but not identical to those described in Article 45.

Next Steps

  1. First ask the decision maker to reconsider the decision.
  2. If the decision maker does not reverse the decision, you may ask your principal office head for reconsideration.
  3. If the principal office head does not reverse the decision, you may ask to have the decision reviewed and evaluated by the HUD Reasonable Accommodation Committee.

Under our contract, you have the option of taking a reconsideration request to the principal office head or directly to the Reasonable Accommodation Committee. You may also request reconsideration and resolution through the Alternative Dispute Resolution process, which is described in Article 9 of our contract.

Local 476 can help you at any step of the reasonable accommodation process.

Additional Resources

See the EEOC's Available Resources list at the bottom of their web page.