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State Personnel Management Manual
Advisory Memorandum # 93-03

0400 Affirmative Action
May 1993

TO: Department and Agency Personnel/Affirmative Action Officers

FROM: Candice T. Carter, Executive Deputy Commissioner

Americans with Disabilities Act: Reasonable Accommodations

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), agencies are required to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability if an accommodation would enable the applicant or employee to perform the essential functions of the job to which he/she is seeking appointment or in which he/she is employed, unless it can be demonstrated that the accommodation would constitute an undue hardship on the operations of the agency. (42 U.S.C. §12112(5)(A)).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Technical Assistance Manual on Title I of the ADA provides that, if an applicant or employee requests an accommodation and the need for an accommodation is not obvious, or if an employer does not believe that an accommodation is needed, the employer may request documentation or require a medical examination to identify the individual's functional limitations to support the request. The Manual advises that a reasonable accommodation must take into consideration the specific abilities and functional limitations of a particular applicant or employee with a disability and the specific functional requirements of a particular job. Therefore, the focus should be on identifying the abilities and limitations of an individual, and not upon the diagnosis and prognosis of a physical or mental condition.

The following procedure, which has been approved by the State Office of the Advocate for the Disabled, should be used to verify an applicant's or employee's need for a requested accommodation.

  1. When the need for an accommodation is not obvious, agencies, before providing a reasonable accommodation, may require that the applicant or employee with a disability provide documentation of the need for the accommodation. This documentation should identify the specific physical or mental limitations of the employee and the precise job limitations imposed by the disability so that the agency may determine if the individual is an individual with a disability entitled to an accommodation and/or to identify an appropriate accommodation.
  2. Employees have the right to supply the documentation from a physician or other medical professional, psychologist, social worker, rehabilitation counselor, occupational or physical therapist, independent living specialist or other professional with knowledge of the employee's disability.
  3. Agencies may apply their own criteria to the documentation submitted for purposes of determining adequacy and veracity, provided that such criteria are clearly established and applied consistently.
  4. If the agency determines that the medical documentation is inadequate to support the request or has reason to doubt its veracity, the agency should specify to the individual why the documentation is unacceptable and provide the employee with an opportunity to submit additional documentation supporting the request
  5. Where an agency finds that the need for an accommodation is not clearly established based on its criteria, it may require the employee to submit to a medical examination by the Employee Health Service of this Department or an appropriate medical professional designated by the agency.
  6. If the employee fails to submit documentation meeting agency criteria or refuses to submit to a medical examination required by the agency, the agency may deny the requested accommodation. Any medical documentation submitted may be used only to evaluate the employee's request for accommodation. An agency may not use documentation obtained during this process or the refusal to submit to the medical examination as a basis for taking any adverse personnel action.

The key issue in all cases is the degree to which medical documentation supports the need for the requested accommodation. While an agency may seek technical assistance from a medical professional, State or local rehabilitation agencies or disability constituent organizations in determining how to accommodate a particular individual in a specific situation, the decision as to what is and what is not an appropriate accommodation is to be made by the agency.

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