Overview of the University Employee Accommodation Request Process
The University of Texas at Austin (University) is required by law to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. The University’s ADA Coordinators are charged with coordinating the University’s compliance with the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA). University employees with a qualifying condition are evaluated for workplace accommodations under Title I of the ADA.
Having a medical condition alone is not enough to make someone eligible for accommodation under the ADA. Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. To have an “actual” disability (or to have a “record of” a disability) an individual must be (or have been) substantially limited in performing a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. Accommodations for individuals with medical conditions that put them at more significant risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may be appropriate when there is a high COVID-19 community level.
Initiating the Accommodation Process
Employees seeking workplace accommodation(s) are responsible for initiating contact with and requesting information regarding accommodations. Employees interested in workplace accommodations can call or email the University ADA Coordinators to request the paperwork to start the accommodation process.
An employee may request a reasonable accommodation at any time, either orally or in writing. A request does not have to include any specific words, such as “reasonable accommodation,” “disability,” or “Americans with Disabilities Act.” A request is any communication in which an individual asks or states that s/he needs the University to provide or to change something because of a medical condition. A supervisor, manager, or the University ADA Coordinators will ask an individual whether s/he is requesting a reasonable accommodation if the nature of the initial communication is unclear. Supervisors who receive a request for accommodation should refer the employee to the University ADA Coordinators, and notify that office of such referral via email at email@example.com.
Although employees may initially consult with the University ADA Coordinators without first informing his or her supervisor, supervisors are an important part of the process and will be brought into the discussion about the specific impact of the medical condition on job performance and recommended accommodations. It is important to note that in having this discussion, the University ADA Coordinators do not share the medical diagnosis or disability documentation with the supervisor, but rather maintains the focus on the limitations of the condition(s) and suggested accommodations.
Processing the Request
When an employee indicates there is a need for an accommodation, the University ADA Coordinators will provide the individual with the necessary paperwork to be completed. University employees can also access and print the necessary paperwork for an ADA accommodation by visiting the Accommodation Request Forms page. In order to determine whether an employee is eligible for accommodations under the ADA, he or she will need to provide written documentation from their licensed health care provider concerning their disability.
After receiving the documentation from the employee’s health care provider, the University ADA Coordinators will review the medical information to determine its adequacy. If the information provided is incomplete, unclear or inconsistent, the University ADA Coordinators may request that the employee obtain additional or clarifying information from their healthcare provider.
The University ADA Coordinators have the authority to obtain, at departmental expense, an independent medical opinion concerning the impairment for which an employee seeks an accommodation. The failure of an employee to cooperate in obtaining such an opinion will result in the cancellation of the request for accommodation.
The accommodation process is a collaborative and interactive process between the University ADA Coordinators, the employee seeking accommodations, the employee’s supervisor, and/or other appropriate personnel (including Human Resource personnel and Benefits).
Once an employee has submitted his or her completed ADA paperwork, the University ADA Coordinators will reach out to schedule a time to meet with him or her in person. Communication is a priority throughout the entire process, but particularly when the specific limitation, problem, or barrier is unclear; when an effective accommodation is not obvious; or when the parties are considering different forms of reasonable accommodation. After meeting with an employee, the University ADA Coordinators will reach out to the employee’s supervisor to discuss the accommodations being requested and explore the feasibility of their implementation.
Texas Senate Bill 212
Beginning January 1, 2020, Texas Senate Bill 212 requires all employees of Texas universities to report any information to the Title IX Office regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking that is disclosed to them. The University ADA Coordinators must report any Title IX related incidents that are disclosed in writing, discussion, or one-on-one. Before talking with the University ADA Coordinators, or with any staff member about a Title IX related incident, be sure to ask whether they are a responsible employee. If you would like to speak with someone who can provide support or remedies without making an official report to the university, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about reporting options and resources, visit http://www.titleix.utexas.edu/