FAQ: Reasonable Accommodation Based on a Disability
What is a reasonable accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment to enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. For example, reasonable accommodation may include:
- acquiring or modifying equipment or devices,
- job restructuring,
- part-time or modified work schedules,
- reassignment to a vacant position,
- adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies,
- providing readers and interpreters, and
- making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
Is CBP required to provide reasonable accommodation for qualified employees and applicants with disabilities?
Yes. It is a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to fail to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of CBP’s programs. Undue hardship means that the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense.
What is my first step if I would like to request a reasonable accommodation?
CBP Employee: Employees with disabilities who desire accommodations shall: 1) Request an accommodation either orally or in writing to his or her immediate supervisor, another supervisor or manager in his/her chain of command, or to a PDO staff member; 2) Provide an interactive evaluation and accommodation recommendation from their treating health care provider, if requested; and 3) Provide a description of the accommodation requested, if known, and the explanation of how it would enable him or her to perform the job.
CBP Prospective Employee: An applicant for employment with CBP who has received a final selection letter and requires an accommodation to perform job duties or to access a benefit of employment (e.g., training, office-sponsored events, emergency evacuation), shall email a Request for Reasonable Accommodation to CBPREASONABLEACCOMMODATION@cbp.dhs.gov.
CBP Applicant: The reasonable accommodation process begins for an applicant, when the applicant, or someone acting on his/her behalf, presents a request for accommodation either orally or in writing to the Indianapolis or Minneapolis Hiring Center or to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) when OPM is the agency that is administering assessments to applicants.
For additional information, employees should contact their servicing DCR Officer.
CBP’s reasonable accommodation procedures may be accessed at CBP Directive No. 51713-007A - Reasonable Accommodation Procedures for Applicants and Employees with Disabilities.
What should happen after an accommodation request has been made?
The individual and agency should engage in an "interactive process" to determine whether and what type accommodation is appropriate. This involves an informal discussion with the requester, facilitated by the assigned PDO staff member, to determine a suitable accommodation. The employee shares responsibility for making the interactive process work by providing information that the agency reasonably needs to evaluate the accommodation request. For example, the agency may ask the employee for suggested accommodation solutions and preferences or for supporting medical information for a number of reasons—for example, to verify the existence of a disability if it is not obvious and/or to understand the employee’s limitations so that an accommodation can be identified that addresses the specific limitations.
How does CBP determine whether a reasonable accommodation is appropriate and the type of accommodation that should be granted?
The requirement generally will be triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who frequently can suggest an appropriate accommodation. Accommodations must be made on a case-by-case basis, because the nature and extent of a disabling condition and the requirements of the job will vary. The principal test in selecting a particular type of accommodation is that of effectiveness, i.e., whether the accommodation will enable the person with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job. It need not be the best accommodation or the accommodation the individual with a disability would prefer, although consideration is given to the preference of the individual involved. However, the local senior management official serving as the Decision-maker will have final discretion to choose between effective accommodations, and s/he may select one that is least expensive or easier to provide.
Is CBP obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation for an individual if management is unaware of the individual’s disability?
No. CBP’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodation applies only to known physical or mental limitations that substantially limit one or more major life activities or there is a record of impairment. Management does not assume that an employee with even an obvious disability cannot perform the functions of his/her job. Thus, an employee needs to inform the employer if any limitations associated with the employee’s disability require an accommodation.
When must CBP consider reassigning an employee with a disability to another job as a reasonable accommodation?
When a qualified employee with a disability is unable to perform his or her present job even with the provision of a reasonable accommodation, CBP must consider reassigning the employee to an existing position that she can perform with or without a reasonable accommodation. The requirement to consider reassignment applies only to employees and not to applicants. In attempting to reassign an employee as an accommodation, CBP will seek vacant funded positions for positions that the employee is qualified to perform. CBP is not required to create a position or to bump another employee in order to create a vacancy. Nor is CBP required to promote an employee with a disability to a higher level position.
Is an employee who takes insulin daily to control his diabetes, but has no significant impact on his employment, protected under the Rehabilitation Act?
Yes, such a person is protected. The determination as to whether a person has a disability under the Rehabilitation Act is made without regard to mitigating measures, such as medications, auxiliary aids and reasonable accommodations. If an individual has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, she is protected under the Rehabilitation Act, regardless of the fact that the disease or condition or its effects may be corrected or controlled. However, a person with such a disability may not need accommodating if the disability is not currently interfering with the employee’s ability to perform his/her job duties.
Are recreational and/or social alcohol and drug users protected under the Rehabilitation Act?
No. Recreational or social users of alcohol or drugs are not protected under the Rehabilitation Act. The Act does, however, protect rehabilitated alcoholics and rehabilitated drug abusers as well as those who are undergoing rehabilitation, provided that such individuals can still perform the functions of their job. However, the fact that a recovering alcoholic or drug addict is covered by the Rehabilitation Act will not protect that employee from the consequences of his or her misconduct, even if the misconduct is associated with the alcoholism or other addiction.
If, for pregnancy-related reasons, an employee is unable to perform the functions of her job, does the employer have to provide reasonable accommodation?
No. Federal law requires agencies to provide reasonable accommodations for disability, but pregnancy is not considered a disability. However, if an employee has a pregnancy-related medical condition or temporary disability relating to pregnancy, the employer must treat the employee the same way it treats other employees who have other medical conditions and/or temporary disabilities. In addition, certain medical conditions relating to pregnancy, for example, gestational diabetes may be considered disabilities, a determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis.
Is CBP required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person without a disability due to that person’s association with someone with a disability?
No. Only qualified applicants and employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation. For example, the Rehabilitation Act would not require an employer to modify its leave policy for an employee who needs time off to care for a child with a disability. However, an employer must avoid treating an employee differently than other employees because of his or her association with a person with a disability. Although not eligible for a reasonable accommodation, CBP employees who face difficulties because of such circumstances are encouraged to speak with the immediate supervisor to discuss available alternatives and to contact the Employee Assistance Program for support or assistance.
What if an accommodation is provided to an employee but is not effective?
The employee should promptly notify her or his immediate supervisor and the DCR Officer assigned to facilitate the request for reasonable accommodation. The DCR Officer will assist in resolving the issue.