PSC EEO Diversity Guidelines and Directives
MEMORANDUM TO ALL EMPLOYEES
SUBJECT: Reasonable Accommodation Policy Statement
The Program Support Center (PSC) is fully committed to ensuring that all aspects of employment are made fully accessible to all employees. No qualified employee with a disability may be denied the benefits of a program, training, or activity conducted, sponsored, paid for, or promoted by PSC, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination.
There are many ways jobs and activities can be made accessible; by providing assistive services or devices, modifying the work site, offering flexible hours, and/or improving facility accessibility, etc. With these modifications, an agency can improve its opportunities to employ qualified persons who have disabilities. Any modification, equipment, or service provided to meet the needs of an individual employee is called “reasonable accommodation”—a Federally mandated recognition that the Federal Government needs to make adaptations for some people with disabilities.
Any PSC applicant or employee with a disability may request and receive reasonable accommodation. The attached procedures describe the process in detail. Requests do not need to be in writing or to mention the words “reasonable accommodation.” Each PSC manager and supervisor is responsible for ensuring that PSC is a barrier-free workplace. Applicants and employees have a right to a prompt response (within three business days) to a request for accommodation. Failure to respond promptly to a request is a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Managers and supervisors may not deny a request for accommodation without consulting with the PSC Division of Equal Employment Opportunity (OEEO). All requests, responses, actions, and denials will be recorded and tracked. All PSC employees are welcome to call the OEEO with any questions on accommodation or to report any barriers to full participation in PSC activities by employees with disabilities.
Any employee who believes s/he has been discriminated against because of a disability or failure to provide reasonable accommodation must, within 45 days of the particular incident or denial of reasonable accommodation, bring the matter to the attention of the OEEO for corrective action.
Any comments or questions related to this policy should be addressed to the Director, OEEO, at (301) 443-1144.
J. P. VanLandingham
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Program Support
PSC PROCEDURES FOR REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION
Reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or procedures to enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. There is a wide range of ways in which jobs and activities can be made accessible. Agencies may provide assistive services or devices, modify the office arrangement, offer flexible hours, improve facility accessibility, arrange for the employee to work from home, etc. “Reasonable Accommodations” is a legal term; case law provides guidance on the accommodations agencies are expected to make.
MAKING A REQUEST
Employees and applicants with disabilities may request reasonable accommodation orally or in writing. The employee request should go to the employee’s supervisor or manager in his/her immediate chain of command, or the OEEO. Applicants may request reasonable accommodation of any agency employee contacted in the application process. Requests do not need to be in writing or to use the words “ reasonable accommodation.” The disability, however, must be mentioned.
A family member, health professional, or other representative may request a reasonable accommodation on behalf of an individual. Whenever possible, PSC will confirm the request with the person with the disability.
Once an employee alerts the PSC to his/her needs for a certain accommodation (documents in large print, for example) the agency is required to provide it during the normal course of business without requiring a request each time.
RESPONDING TO A REQUEST – TIME FRAME
Supervisors and other PSC officials who receive a request for reasonable accommodation will respond within two business days. The employee will be told whether the requested accommodations will be provided and when they will be provided, or whether he/she must consult with the Director, OEEO. Whenever possible, the supervisor or manager will approve the request and proceed with the provision of accommodation. If the employee does not receive a response within two business days, he/she should contact the OEEO directly. In some cases where the employee requests assistance in overcoming a barrier to his/her productivity, the supervisor, the employee, and the OEEO may need to discuss the situation to arrive at a mutually workable solution. The appendix to these procedures provides a list of sources for information on accommodation assistance. In rare cases, if no other reasonable accommodation is available to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of his/her position, the PSC will consider reassigning the employee to another position.
RESPONDING TO A REQUEST FROM AN APPLICANT – TIME FRAME
If the request is for reasonable accommodation during the application or interview process, or is for accommodation allowing participation in an agency activity scheduled to occur shortly, the request will be processed expeditiously. Because of the short time frames implicit in the application and interview process, the OEEO will be contacted immediately if there is any issue that could delay or prevent the PSC from providing the requested accommodation.
FINAL DECISION/FORMAT DENIALS
Supervisors and managers will seek agreement from the Director, OEEO before denying requests for reasonable accommodation. The person making the request will be contacted for additional information or clarification before the request is denied. The final decision to deny a request will be provided to the individual by the OEEO in a memorandum which will include the reason (s) for denial. Final decisions will be issued within two weeks of the initial request and will include information on the right to file an EEO complaint.
In some cases, the PSC might deny a request but not offer an alternative accommodation. The memorandum to the employee will explain the reasons for the denial of the requested accommodation and the reasons it believes the offered accommodation will be effective.
The only information that is essential is: a short description of the disability; how the disability or barrier limits the employee’s ability to do the job or participate in PSC activities or the applicant’s ability to apply or interview for the job; and how the requested accommodation is expected to improve the situation.
The PSC is not required to obtain medical documentation, and may not request medical documentation when the disability and the need for accommodation are obvious or when the employee’s medical documentation is already on file. However, when a disability or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the PSC has the right to request relevant medical information that describes the disability and the need for accommodation. The medical information should be a brief description of the disability, the functional limitations at issue, and clarify how the requested accommodation will assist the employee to perform the essentials functions of the job or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of the workplace. This description should be limited to the job related functions for which the accommodation is requested.
The employee may be asked by OEEO to obtain additional documentation if the medical documentation is not clear. The OEEO manager requesting the additional documentation will explain to the employee specifically what information is needed. All medical information submitted will be kept confidential and given to the PSC OEEO for filing. Thus, the documentation will be available if the employee makes an additional request at a later date. The information may, however, be shared with a physician chosen by the PSC if a second opinion is needed.
When the medical documentation submitted to PSC management is not clear, the employee will be told why the submitted documentation is insufficient and given an opportunity to provide additional documentation. If the employee is still unable to provide sufficient information to support the request, the Director, OEEO, may pay for the documentation to be reviewed by a medical expert chosen by the PSC.
In a few cases, the Director, OEEO, may need to arrange for the employee to be seen by a medical expert chosen by the PSC. The PSC will pay for this second opinion. The purpose of the second opinion is to clarify how the disability affects the employee’s ability to carry out the duties of his/her position and how the requested accommodation will improve the employee’s ability to perform those duties.
SELECTION OF ACCOMMODATION
Supervisors or managers in the PSC will consult with the person who made the request before deciding on the specifics of providing an accommodation. Only the person with the disability knows exactly how well a particular accommodation will actually meet his/her needs. The individual may need to test the accommodation if he/she has not used it before. This caveat applies to assistive devices, computer programs, facility modifications, etc. as well as services. When procuring or arranging personal services such as readers and interpreters, an employee will be allowed to use the services on a trial basis, or at least conduct an interview, before the decision is made to use the services of a specific individual. If the employee is uncomfortable with the level of competence of the service provider (in the case of readers and interpreters) or believes that the accommodation suggested will be inadequate, the Federal requirement for reasonable accommodation has not been met.
PROVISION OF ACCOMMODATION – ATTITUDES
The applicant or employee who requests an accommodation will be treated with respect at all times. It is the PSC philosophy that an employee usually requests an accommodation because he/she wishes to improve job performance or participation in PSC events. This desire is commendable. It is not appropriate to draw attention to the accommodation or the need for accommodation unless other employees need to modify their behavior (an example will be the need to avoid covering their mouths when speaking to an employee who is hard of hearing).
Other employees will not be privy to the cost or other aspects of the provision of the requested accommodations. Attention will not be directed to readers, interpreters, and personal assistants; they will be allowed to perform their functions without being introduced or otherwise drawn in as participants in a meeting.
PROVISION OF ACCOMMODATION – TIME FRAMES
When a PSC manager or administrative officer agrees to provide reasonable accommodation as requested, he/she is responsible for providing the accommodation promptly. Failure to respond promptly to a request may result in a violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Therefore, when the requested accommodation is simple and straightforward, it will be provided immediately. The appropriate procurement request will be submitted promptly. The request will include a prominent note that it is for reasonable accommodation. If there is a delay at any point in the process, the employee is to be informed of the delay by the supervisor. This requires prompt communication from all parties involved in providing the accommodation.
Whenever possible, a temporary accommodation will be arranged so that the employee may maintain or improve his/her productivity and comfort level. In some cases, there may be a delay by the vendor in delivering the requested equipment or services. In this situation, the employee will be offered interim options (alternative accommodations).
PROVISION OF ACCOMMODATION – FUNDING
All costs for reasonable accommodation will be paid from a PSC central fund. Individual supervisors or offices are not expected to absorb the cost of providing accommodations. Contact the PSC OEEO to arrange payment for any costs of reasonable accommodations.
Employees with disabilities are often more adversely impacted by inclement weather and may not be able to commute safely. When weather conditions make it difficult or dangerous for an employee to travel to work, and the employee duties can be performed from any location, the PSC will allow the employee to work from home, as a reasonable accommodation. Each year, before the winter weather season, supervisors and employees are to negotiate inclement weather agreements. The employee has the option of using annual leave or credit hours, and may request permission to work from home. If the request is denied, the employee may contact the PSC OEEO.
The PSC will consider reassigning the employee if it cannot find an accommodation that will permit the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her current position. When, for example, the only suitable accommodation would provide an undue hardship for PSC, the employee may be reassigned to a different position for which he/she is qualified. Reassignment is available only to employees, not to applicants. The PSC is not required to create new positions or move employees from their jobs to create a vacancy.
The employee being reassigned must be qualified for the new position. He/she must have the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements.
REPORTING AND FILING PROCEDURES
All requests for reasonable accommodation (s) and the provision of the accommodation (s) will be reported to the PSC OEEO for tracking purposes. The HHS Office of the Secretary requests aggregate information on an annual basis, usually at the end of the fiscal year. No names are included in the annual report. Any requested medical documentation will be given to the OEEO for safekeeping so that the employee’s privacy is maintained. All medical information must be kept confidential.