Reasonable Accommodations FAQ for Supervisors

The Accessibility and Accommodations Division routinely partners with supervisors to answer questions related to ensuring employees with reasonable accommodation are provided an inclusive environment in which they can succeed in their positions. This FAQ is specifically tailored to address the most common questions the Division receives from supervisors and encourages supervisors to review this FAQ and to contact the Division for additional resources, information or clarification as needed.

Does the Campus Administrative Manual have a policy dedicated to the reasonable accommodation process under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)?

Yes. The Campus Administrative Manual HR-67: Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act is the policy for all Urbana-Champaign employees.

I am a supervisor and I want to learn more about my responsibilities under the ADA, who should I contact?

Please reach out to the Accessibility and Accommodations Division directly, we can answer questions one-on-one, provide guidance on general topics or schedule training for your unit, college, or group of supervisors on a wide variety of topics including accommodations best practices etc.

Should a supervisor request or accept medical documentation from an employee who states they have a disability, underlying medical condition, or is seeking a reasonable accommodation?

No. The Accessibility and Accommodations Division will collect any relevant medical documentation and store it in our HIPAA compliant database. Please thank the employee for their willingness to share the information, but redirect them to the Request a Workplace Accommodation form. If the employee is trying to submit FMLA paperwork, please direct them to your unit HR representative for further assistance.

An employee has stated they need a particular workplace item (standing desk/ergonomic chair) due to a medical condition or disability, should I go ahead and order them what they have requested?

When an employee requests an item for their workspace due to any medical condition or mentions a disability, the supervisor should provide the employee with the contact information for the Accessibility and Accommodation Division or direct them to the Request a Workplace Accommodation form. The Accessibility and Accommodations Division interactive process is the appropriate university process to address requests related to a workplace accommodation need.

  • Division Recommendation: If the unit is providing all employees with a certain kind of ergonomic equipment, they do not have to direct each employee to the Division. However, if an employee mentions and underlying medical condition or disability, the employee should be directed to the Division so that we can provide any additional accommodations or resources that may be helpful to ensure the employee is able to perform the essential functions of their position.

Can a supervisor expect an employee with a disability to perform their essential job functions to an equivalent performance standard as those without disabilities?

Yes. An employee with a disability must meet the same production standards as their non-disabled coworkers in the same job, based on the essential functions listed in their job description. However, reasonable accommodations may be required to assist an employee in meeting a specific production standard.

  • Division Recommendation: Supervisors should give clear expectation guidance to all employees regarding the quantity and quality of work that must be produced and the timetables for producing it.

May a supervisor require an employee with a disability to perform a job in the same manner as a non-disabled employee?

Sometimes. However, in many instances, an essential function can be performed in different ways, including through the use of a reasonable accommodation. For instance, employees may perform essential functions using assistive technology, using an alternative schedule, in an alternate location (remote work), etc. However, an employer is not required to allow use of an alternate method that would impose an undue hardship

If a supervisor gives a lower performance rating to an employee and the employee responds by revealing they have a disability or underlying medical condition that is causing the performance problem, may the employer still give the lower rating?

Yes. The rating reflects the employee’s performance to date, regardless of disability. However, if this is the first time the employee has raised an underlying medical condition or disability as the cause of their performance issues, the supervisor should provide information about the availability of reasonable accommodations through the Accessibility and Accommodations Division verbally, and then follow up in an email providing contact information for the Accessibility & Accommodations Division along with other appropriate resource contacts including IHR and FSAS.

  • Division recommendation: If an employee states that their disability is the cause of the performance problem, the supervisor could follow up by making clear what level of performance is required. If the employee does not ask for an accommodation at that time, the supervisor should still provide resources including the contact information to request an accommodation based on the disclosure of an underlying medical condition or disability.

Must an employee with a disability ask for a reasonable accommodation at a certain time?

No. The ADA does not require employees to ask for a reasonable accommodation at a certain time. Employees may ask for reasonable accommodation at any time during their employment, however, accommodations are not retroactive. This means, employees should ideally request reasonable accommodations prior to experiencing performance issues.

What should a supervisor do if an employee requests an accommodation for the first time in response to receiving a performance evaluation, letter of expectation or disciplinary letter?

If an employee requests a reasonable accommodation in response to the supervisor discussing or evaluating the employee’s performance, the supervisor can continue discussion or evaluation but also should begin the “interactive reasonable accommodation process” by providing the employee with the contact information for the Accessibility and Accommodations Division and provide the Request a Workplace Accommodation form. Supervisors and the employer cannot refuse to discuss the request or fail to provide a reasonable accommodation as punishment for the performance issue.

May a supervisor withdraw a reasonable accommodation including a remote work accommodation or a modified schedule (flex schedule) provided as a reasonable accommodation because the employee receives a letter of performance expectation or negative evaluation?

No. A supervisor or HR representative may not unilaterally withdraw any reasonable accommodation as punishment for the unsatisfactory performance rating. The supervisor or HR representative must first contact the Accessibility and Accommodations Division to determine if reengaging in the interactive process to determine what if any changes should be made to the current accommodations to increase effectiveness, whether an additional accommodation is needed or what additional accommodation would be helpful to assist the employee to perform the essential functions of their position.

If an employee with an accommodation receives negative performance feedback or is exhibiting performance issues, should the supervisor assume this means the reasonable accommodation is not working?

No. The supervisor should not assume that any performance issues are related to the accommodation not working. The supervisor should try to determine the cause of the performance issue and whether it is related to the current accommodation.

  • Division Example: If an employee has a remote work accommodation due to a disability but is not requesting time off from the supervisor in accordance with unit requirements, the performance issue is likely not related to the remote work accommodation or disability. If, however, the employee has a flexible start time but continues to report to work outside of that start time, the accommodation may not be assisting the employee in improving their performance as intended. In this case, the supervisor and employee may need to engage in the interactive process by contacting the Accessibility and Accommodations Division to determine whether any changes would make the accommodation more effective, whether an additional accommodation is needed, or whether the original accommodation should be withdrawn and another should be substituted.

Should a supervisor mention an employee’s disability during a discussion about a performance or conduct issue if the employee has not disclosed a disability and does not do so?

This is not advisable. When a supervisor is engaged in a discussion about performance or conduct, the supervisor should not intimate or ask whether there is a medical or disability reason for the employee’s disability. The point of the supervisor should not initiate discussion about the role of an employee’s disability during a performance or conduct discussion.

  • Division guidance: We recommend allowing the employee to initiate discussion on the role of the disability. If they do initiate this discussion, we recommend directing the employee to the Accessibility & Accommodations Division to discuss concerns related to their performance or conduct that may be impacted by a disability.

When discussing performance or conduct problems with an employee who has a known disability, may an employer ask if the employee needs a reasonable accommodation?

Yes. An employer may ask an employee with a known disability who is having performance or conduct problems if they need a reasonable accommodation. Alternatively, an employer may prefer to ask if some step(s) can be taken to enable the employee to improve his performance or conduct without mentioning accommodation or the employee’s disability.

An employee is requesting that a supervisor reconsider a request for remote work as a reasonable accommodation after the employee worked remotely during the pandemic. Does the employer need to consider this information in a reevaluation of the employee’s accommodation request?

Yes. Temporary telework experience could be relevant to considering the renewed request. In this situation, for example, the period of providing telework because of the COVID-19 pandemic could serve as a trial period that showed whether or not this employee with a disability could satisfactorily perform the essential functions of their position while working remotely, and the employer should consider this new information. As with all accommodation requests, the employee and the supervisor should engage in the interactive process by contacting the Accessibility and Accommodations Division.
This FAQ has been adapted from EEOC guidance found at: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk (last updated 1.7.22)

An employee in my unit is asking questions about a co-worker's workplace accommodation or modification. How should I respond?

It is important not to disclose that an employee is receiving an accommodation because doing so is an inappropriate disclosure of an employee’s confidential disability or religious information.

Instead of disclosing this information, supervisors should emphasize the importance of maintaining the privacy of all employees and not discussing the work situation of any employee with co-workers. One way a unit may be able to avoid many of these kinds of questions is by engaging in training opportunities with the Accessibility and Accommodations Division on creating an inclusive environment for employees of diverse backgrounds including disability. This kind of proactive approach may lead to fewer questions from employees who misperceive co-worker accommodations as special treatment.

If an employee has questions or concerns about the equal distribution of work, or feels that they are being unfairly tasked with job duties that a co-worker is not performing, those issues should be addressed by the supervisor without disclosing private disability, medical, or religious information about any employee.