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Reasonable accommodation is a must for employers

by Bradley T. Neff
Equal Employment Opportunity
Graphic by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, except when such accommodation would cause an undue hardship and/or the impact of the accommodation will adversely affect the operations of MacDill.

An individual with a disability is one who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working); (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

The concept of reasonable accommodation applies to all aspects of employment on MacDill, including recruiting, work station and scheduling (AFI 36-807 A2.1 and A2.3), training, promotion, reassignment, and developmental assignments.

A qualified individual with a disability is one who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the employment position and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position. (Essential functions are tasks that are fundamental, not marginal.)

Commanders, supervisors or hiring officials at MacDill shall not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability with regard to application procedures, hiring, promotion, or discharge of employees, compensation, job training and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

If an individual meets all job prerequisites except those that she or he cannot meet because of a disability, the employer must show that the requirement that screened out this person is "job-related and consistent with business necessity," including that no reasonable accommodation would enable the individual to meet the requirement or perform the essential functions of the job. Selection criteria related to marginal functions that exclude an individual with a disability because of disability are not consistent with business necessity.

Reasonable accommodations must be provided to qualified employees regardless of whether they work part-time or full-time, or are considered "probationary." The individual with a disability must inform the employer that an accommodation is needed. It can be done orally or in writing. Requests from employees should be made to the employee's supervisor or a manager in the employee's chain of command or to other appropriate individuals (such as a HR specialist, Disability Program Manager or Special Emphasis Program Manager) designated to participate in or oversee the reasonable accommodation process.

The 6th Mission Support Squadron Civilian Personnel Flight provides necessary support and assistance to commanders, supervisors, and managers in addressing reasonable accommodation requests for MacDill employees. Processing of all requests for reasonable accommodation should begin immediately regardless of whether written confirmation has been provided by the employee. The request does not have to use special words, such as "reasonable accommodation," "disability," or "Rehabilitation Act."

Someone designated by the requestor to act on their behalf may also present the request. Immediate supervisors will receive process and approve all requests within their area of delegated responsibility expeditiously. Requests beyond their approval authority will be immediately forwarded to the appropriate decision-making level as soon as possible but in no more than five workdays unless extenuating circumstances exist. Requests cannot be delayed due to the leave, temporary duty assignment, or other absence or obligation of anyone involved in the process chain. Collective bargaining obligations must be honored where appropriate in implementing procedures for reasonable accommodation.

Commanders and supervisors at MacDill are required to insure their personnel are familiar with Federal and Department of Defense specific policies and procedures related to the availability of reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Commanders and supervisors should fully utilize the assistance technologies and services of the DoD, Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program for employment and development, http://www.tricare.osd.mil/cap. This program provides assistance to DoD and other federal agencies at no cost to the requesting agency.

Of utmost concern is the timely and expeditious processing of requests and providing of approved reasonable accommodation.

Questions concerning reasonable accommodation can be directed to Mr. Bradley T. Neff, EEO specialist at 828-9205 or Mrs. Terri Barnes, People With Disabilities Program manager at 828-8533. (The information outlined was derived from guidance found in the EEOC web site www.eeoc.gov.)

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