Employee Reasonable Accommodation Policy

Sponsor:

Office of the President, Affirmative Action Office

Contact:

Affirmative Action Officer

Category:

Collegewide

Number:

100.002

Effective Date:

2015/07/2015

Review Date:

2018/07/15

Implementation History:

Revised on 01/01/2012; 07/15/2015 Created 04/21/2010

Keywords:

ADA, Disabilities, Accommodation

Background Information:

Summary

SUNY Empire State College is committed to providing equal access to individuals with disabilities, including physical access to programs and reasonable accommodations for members of the college community.

Purpose

Policy

SUNY Empire State College is committed to providing equal employment opportunity, educational opportunity, and equal access to services, programs, and activities for persons with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations will be provided to qualified employees with disabilities to enable performance of the essential functions of the positions for which they are applying and in which they are employed. Academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids will be provided to qualified students with disabilities when necessary to ensure equality of opportunity to complete academic requirements. The college’s programs and activities will be accessible to all individuals, including both physical access and access to electronic media, such as software and Web-based applications.

Scope

This policy applies to all employment and educational practices and actions. It includes, but is not limited to, recruitment, application, examination and testing, hiring, training, grading, rates of pay or other compensation, advancement, discharge, and all other terms and conditions of employment and educational status. It also includes access to programs, services, and activities which may occur outside the classroom or office environment but which are an integral part of the college experience. This policy also applies to public access to college programs, services, and other offerings.

Legal Background

This policy is based on:

  • New York State (NYS) Human Rights Law
  • Section 503/504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
  • Americans with Disability Act (ADA), as amended
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 2008 (ADAAA)
  • Executive Order 6
  • Executive Chamber Memorandum, entitled equal Access to State Agency Employment, Programs and Services for Individuals with Disabilities, 1996
  • Executive Chamber Memorandum Technology Policy 96-13 – Accessibility to Technology, 1996
  • Technology Policy 99-3: Universal Accessibility for New York State Web Sites, 1999

Definitions

Academic Adjustments

Modifications to academic requirements made to ensure that requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of disability, against a qualified applicant or student with a disability. Academic requirements that are essential to the instruction being pursued by the student or to any directly related licensing requirement will not be subject to modification. Modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.

Auxiliary Aids

Actions taken or materials provided to ensure that qualified students with disabilities can receive the benefits of the educational program, regardless of impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills. Auxiliary aids may include audio or described taped texts, sign or oral interpreters, captioning or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to students with hearing impairments, readers for students with visual impairments, classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments, and other similar services and actions. Auxiliary aids do not include personal services or equipment, such as attendants, readers for personal use, or individually prescribed devices unrelated to the course of study.

Disability

Under the ADA law, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (i.e. hearing, speaking, seeing, and walking) or a record of substantially limiting impairment, or someone regarded as having a substantially limiting impairment.

Under the NYSDHR, a disability is a physical, mental, or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions that prevents the exercise of normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques, or a record of such impairment, or a condition regarded by others as such impairment.

Essential Job Function

Essential job functions include the fundamental duties of a position. A duty may be considered an essential function if:

  • The position exists to perform that function
  • There are a limited number of employees available who could fulfill that function and/or
  • The function is highly specialized.

In determining whether a duty is essential, it is also relevant to consider that amount of time spent performing the function, consequences of not allowing someone to perform the function, written job description, work experience of people who are performing the job or who have performed the job in the past, and terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Interactive Process

This is a method by which and employee and employer explore whether reasonable accommodations can enable the employee to perform the essential functions of a position. The interactive process should involve open dialogue that allows for full participation by both employer and employee, in consultation with the Director of Collegewide Disabilities Services as requested by any involved party.

Qualified Employee with a Disability

An individual with a disability who can perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Qualified Student with a Disability 

A student with a disability who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity, with or without the provision of academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodations includes actions taken which permit an employee or applicant with a disability to perform the activities involved in the position held or sought in a reasonable manner provided that such actions do not impose an undue hardship or eliminate essential functions of the job. These include, but are not limited to, provision of an accessible worksite, acquisition or modification or equipment, support services for persons with impaired hearing or vision, job restructuring and modified work schedules.

Undue Hardship

An undue hardship may include a significant disruption, expense and/or difficulty posed by an accommodation. The issue of whether a requested accommodation poses an undue hardship is based upon an individualized assessment of current circumstances regarding the position and accommodation. When a center/department is concerned that a requested accommodation will pose an undue hardship, it must proceed according to the procedure in this policy.

Statements

Responsibility

President, provost, vice presidents, deans, directors, department heads, and supervisors

  • Provide individuals with disabilities the opportunity to fully participate in employment and academic life.
  • Provide reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and auxiliary aids as necessary and appropriate.
  • Refer individual employees to the affirmative action officer or to the office of collegewide disability services, as appropriate, to address concerns regarding discrimination, harassment, accommodations, and other related matters.
  • Ensure that websites, electronic media, online learning courses, and other electronic information and communications are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • The cost of reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids is primarily the responsibility of the center/department in which the accommodation must be made. If cost considerations pose a hardship for a department, consult with the affirmative action officer to identify additional sources of funding.  

Students, employees, applicants, and members of the public who require reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, or auxiliary aids

  • Provide timely notification when a reasonable accommodation, academic adjustment, and/or auxiliary aid is required, according to the process in this policy.

Department Head and Supervisors

  • Provide reasonable accommodations when requested; if there is a concern as to the appropriateness of an accommodation, refer the employee to the affirmative action officer.
  • Consult with the affirmative action officer when there are questions about reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability and/or when an employee is experiencing performance difficulties resulting from a possible disability.
  • Implement the recommendations provided by the affirmative action officer when questions arise about implementation.

Mentors/Instructors

  • Provide academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids upon request; if there is a concern regarding the appropriateness of the request, refer the student to the office of collegewide disability services.
  • Implement the recommendations provided by the office of collegewide disability services once the student has provided appropriate documentation regarding their accommodation request and approval is received from that office.
  • Consult with the office of collegewide disability services when there are questions about reasonable accommodations for a student with a disability and/or when a student is evidencing problems with meeting course requirements resulting from a possible disability.
  • Consult with the office of collegewide disability services if there are concerns about implementing the accommodation memorandum

Members of search committees or other individuals involved in the hiring process

  • Ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to interviews, and are referred to the affirmative action officer when they request accommodations during the interview process, in accordance with the procedures in this policy.
  • Applicants may self-identify their disability status during the pre-employment stage, otherwise committee members should not ask about their disability status.

Members of admissions committees or other individuals involved in admissions

  • Ensure that applicants with disabilities have equal access to the process and accommodations pursuant to the procedures in this policy.
  • Ensure that individuals are not asked about their disability status during the pre-admission stage unless they self-identify and request reasonable accommodations.

Affirmative Action Office

  • Administer this policy.
  • Investigate allegations of discrimination and harassment.
  • Coordinate reasonable accommodations for applicants for employment.
  • Assist in handling complaints, including resolving conflicts or issues about the implementation of reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and auxiliary aids.

Office for Collegewide Disability Services

  • Assist students with disabilities in identifying appropriate academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or reasonable accommodations.
  • Coordinate services for individuals with disabilities, as described in the procedures in this policy.
  • Develop and communicate accommodation recommendations.
  • Facilitate the interactive process as necessary.
  • Works closely with the affirmative action officer, when necessary, in identifying auxiliary aids and reasonable accommodations.

Procedure for Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation

Application for Employment Process

  • Individuals with disabilities (and disabled veterans) are invited to self-identify by indicating such during the application process, or later by completing a Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability.  Submission of this information is voluntary. Refusal to provide it will not result in any adverse treatment.
  • Applicants who require reasonable accommodations with respect to applying and interviewing, or any aspect of the hiring process, should contact the affirmative action officer to make arrangements.
  • The affirmative action officer will not disclose confidential information regarding the applicant’s disability and will only share information necessary to implement the request.
  • The responsibility for requesting or initiating an accommodation request lies with the applicant. Upon receipt of the accommodation request, the Affirmative Action Officer will determine if an accommodation is appropriate, and if so, what the accommodation will be.
  • It is normally incumbent upon the hiring center/department to cover the expenses related to an accommodation but options can be explored for other funding sources when resources are unavailable.
  • Interviews and/or other steps in the application process that require and applicant’s physical presence should be held at locations that are accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.
  • Interviewers may not ask questions or make comments related to an applicant’s disability.  Interviewers may ask if or how applicants can perform the essential functions of a position with or without reasonable accommodations. If the applicant mentions during the interview that he or she has a disability that requires accommodation, the interview should state that the college provided reasonable accommodations, but should not inquire further as to the applicant’s disability.

Process for Employee Accommodation

  • Employees with disabilities who do not require reasonable accommodations are entitled to privacy with respect to their disabilities. If a supervisor or department head suspects that an employee's disability might be the cause of work-related or behavioral issues, the employee should not be questioned with respect to a disability or possible disability. Supervisors or department heads may ask such employees, in general terms, whether measures could be taken to assist the employee; further, supervisors or department heads may inform the employee of possible avenues of support and assistance.
  • An employee who requires a reasonable accommodation for a disability may make a request directly to a supervisor or department heads, or may contact the affirmative action officer to initiate the process. If a supervisor or department head is notified by an employee that a disability and/or medical condition is causing difficulties with attending or performing the job, this should be treated as a request to initiate the interactive process to determine if reasonable accommodations are warranted.
  • A supervisor or department head who receives a direct or indirect request for reasonable accommodations should initiate discussions with the employee to explore whether the employee is requesting assistance. If the employee's request can be easily accommodated and the supervisor or department head determines that medical confirmation of the disability is not required, the supervisor or department head may fulfill the request on an informal basis, without consultation with or approval from the affirmative action officer.
  • If the supervisor or department head believes that confirmation of the disability is required, the employee will be referred to the affirmative action officer. The supervisor or department head may not request or review the employee’s medical documentation, and should forward the documentation to the affirmative action office and/or a Human Resources (HR) representative, as appropriate, to consider the accommodation request. The employee will provide the affirmative action office with appropriate documentation to establish the disability, including the functional limitations of the condition and/or a clear explanation of the need for a reasonable accommodation, and to substantiate any recommendations for accommodating the employee. The department head will provide the affirmative action officer with information concerning the essential functions of the position and other information relevant to assist in developing a recommendation. A HR representative may also review an employee’s medical documentation, as necessary, to verify the need for disability-related leave.
  • The affirmative action office will provide a recommendation as to reasonable accommodations for the employee based upon information provided by both the employee and the supervisor or department head.
  • An alternative accommodation to the one requested by an employee can be made if it can be determined that the alternative accommodation effectively allows the employee to perform the essential functions of his/her position, and provides the same privileges and benefits as those enjoyed by other employees.
  • Complaints, disagreements, or issues concerning the provision or denial of accommodations should be brought to the attention of affirmative action office. An employee who has been denied an accommodation may appeal the decision in accordance with the college’s complaints procedures.

 

Process for Students and Applicants for Accommodation

  • Applicants for admission may not be asked if they have a disability, however students may voluntarily disclose. If applicant interviews are conducted, interviewers may not ask questions or make comments related to an applicant's disability. Interviewers may describe the requirements of the academic program, including practicum or residency requirements, and may ask applicants how they would fulfill these requirements. Individuals who request accommodations in the application process should be referred to collegewide disability services.
  • Interviews and/or other steps in the application process that require an applicant's physical presence should be held in locations that are accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.
  • As with employees, students with disabilities are entitled to privacy with respect to their disabilities. Mentors/Instructors should not question students about a disability or possible disability, and may not request medical documentation from students. Mentors/Instructors should not attempt to diagnose students whom they teach or advise, even when an instructor is professionally qualified to do so. A mentor/instructor may ask a student who is evidencing problems, in general terms, whether measures could be taken to assist the student; the student may be referred to collegewide disability services on a confidential basis.
  • A student may make a request for an academic adjustment or auxiliary aid directly to a mentor or course instructor, their dean, or to collegewide disability services. If the mentor/instructor and student agree upon an academic adjustment or auxiliary aid, the mentor/instructor may provide this without referral to collegewide disability services.  Otherwise, when a student discloses the need for an academic adjustment or auxiliary aid, the mentor/instructor, center or school will refer the student to collegewide disability services. The student's request may be a direct request for an academic adjustment or auxiliary aid, or may be an indirect request[1]. In the event that a mentor/instructor receives a request from a third party, the instructor will refer the student to collegewide disability services.
  • Students who contact collegewide disability services to request academic adjustments or auxiliary aids may be required to submit medical or psychological documentation as necessary to substantiate the need for the academic adjustment or auxiliary aid. This documentation will be considered private. Collegewide disability services will issue a memorandum addressed to affected mentor/instructor of the faculty or staff which outlines the academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids that are recommended after a review of the accommodation request and pertinent documentation. The academic adjustment and/or auxiliary aid that is recommended could be the one requested by the student, or an alternative that will effectively permit the student's full participation in the course. It is the student's responsibility to provide the memorandum to their mentor/instructors, as necessary, to arrange to meet with mentor/instructors regarding implementation of the recommendations. A mentor/instructor should contact collegewide disability services for consultation whenever there is a question or concern about a recommended academic adjustment or auxiliary aid, particularly if the mentor/instructor believes that a recommended academic adjustment or auxiliary aid:
    • would pose an undue financial or administrative burden
    • would fundamentally alter the nature or purpose of the course, assignment, or test
    • is inconsistent with essential academic requirements
    • would reduce or alter academic requirements
    • would substantially alter the method in which the course is taught or service is provided, or
    • would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the student or others.

If, after consulting with collegewide disability services, the mentor/instructor or college staff continues to disagree, the mentor/instructor may consult with the affirmative action office or academic authorities, but a mentor/instructor or staff member may not unilaterally deny a requested academic adjustment or auxiliary aid recommended in writing by collegewide disability services.  

  • Whenever possible, an academic adjustment will provide an educational experience that is comparable to that of the rest of the class. Students who require extended time on examinations should be provided with the same examination as their classmates, unless it can be established that a make-up examination or exercise is of the same degree of difficulty, form, and scope as the examination or exercise provided to the students' classmates. A different examination should only be administered in situations where:
    • the student requires a different form of test or examination as an academic adjustment, and this will not fundamentally alter the nature or purpose of the test or examination and/or
    • a scheduling conflict precludes the possibility that the student can take the examination or test at the same time as other students in the class, and the instructor is concerned about test security.
  • Students who are performing work in clinical settings are entitled to reasonable accommodations, as necessary, to perform the essential duties of the clinical site. In the event that a student requires accommodations at a clinical site, the student should notify his/her mentor/instructor, who should assist the student in engaging in the interactive process with the clinical site.
  • Students must provide timely notice of the need for an academic adjustment or auxiliary aid. Absent emergency circumstances, mentors/instructors do not need to honor last-minute requests for accommodation. Mentors/Instructors should consider disability-related emergencies in the same manner as any other emergency situation that would impact a student's ability to take an examination, or otherwise complete course assignments.
  • Complaints, disagreements or other issues concerning the provision or denial of academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids should be brought to the attention of the affirmative action office. A student who has been denied an academic adjustment and/or auxiliary aid may appeal the decision to the affirmative action office in accordance with the college’s complaints procedures.

[1] Examples of indirect requests include a statement to the instructor that the student is having difficulty in the class due to a disability or possible disabling condition, or other statements that give notice to the instructor that a referral to AR is appropriate.  

Assistance from Committee

At the discretion of the Affirmative Action Officer, a committee may be convened to review any application and make recommendations on the disposition of an application.  The committee may consist of the Affirmative Action Officer, Director of Facilities, Director of Security, AVP Human Resources, Director of Collegewide Disabilities Services, and a representative from the center or school.

Technical Assistance

The college may seek technical assistance from medical professionals, State or local rehabilitation agencies, or disability services to determine how best to address an individual’s accommodation request once authorization is received. 

Confidentiality, Use and Storage

All documentation will be held private and kept separate from personnel records. Documents are stored in locked files in the Affirmative Action Office.  Documentation and reports from medical exams will be used to assist the Affirmative Action Officer in making an informed decision about the employee’s request for accommodation but may be shared with appropriate members of the Office of Human Resources in situations involving disability leaves.   

Notification

After a decision is made by the Affirmative Action Officer as to what is and is not appropriate accommodation, the employee will receive a written notification. The Affirmative Action Officer will notify the employee of the disposition of the request for an accommodation within two-weeks of receiving all necessary information including medical documentation, if appropriate.

Denial of Request Options

If the Request for Reasonable Accommodation is denied the employee or applicant has the right to the following options:

  • Choose to accept the college’s decision and end the process; or
  • File an Internal Discrimination Compliant

If an individual who is requesting an accommodation believes that a decision to deny the request was based on unlawful discrimination they may filed a complaint using the college’s official complaint procedures located at esc.edu/affirmative-action-office, or

  • File Outside Agency Claim with State and Federal enforcement agencies:

At any time an applicant or employee may file a complaint of unlawful discrimination with an outside compliance agency. The college should be notified at the time the claimant decides to file with an outside agency. Such agencies include:  

-- New York State Division of Human Rights at 1-888-392-3644, or www.dhr.ny.gov/how-file-complaint

-- Office for Civil Rights, New York Office, United States Department of Education 32 Old Slip, 26th Floor, New York, New York 10005-2500, Phone:  (646) 428-3900

-- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

N/A

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

For assistance with this policy, applications, accommodations and appeals, please contact:

 

Affirmative Action Officer | Title IX Coordinator

2 Union Avenue

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Mary.morton@esc.edu

518-587-2100, ext 2858

 

Students may contact:

Director, Collegewide Disability Services

1 Union Avenue

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Kelly.hermann@escx.edu

518-587-2100m ext 2201