2 The Reasonable Accommodation Process

21 Questions About Reasonable Accommodation

Qualified individuals with disabilities may require reasonable accommodation during the application process, during the course of their employment with the Postal Service, or both. Requests for reasonable accommodation can be made orally or in writing by the individual or by someone on behalf of the individual.

Questions concerning reasonable accommodation arise in three instances:

To request an accommodation, an individual may use plain language and need not mention the Rehabilitation Act or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” An employee can make a request for accommodation to his or her supervisor or manager or the Manager, Human Resources (District). A job applicant may make a request for accommodation to the examiner, selecting official, or Manager, Human Resources (District).

The reasonable accommodation process is activated whenever:

When you receive an accommodation request, you must process the request promptly, using the guidance contained in this handbook. Whether the request is made orally or in writing, you must act promptly (see subchapter 24 for time frames for processing requests). Engage the requestor in an informal dialogue to determine exactly:

Alternatively, you may refer the request to your district or area Reasonable Accommodation Committee (RAC) for processing, as appropriate (see Chapter 6, Role of the Reasonable Accommodation Committee).

You must refer a request for accommodation to the RAC when an employee has requested an accommodation or modification of his or her work assignment or job duties based on a medical reason, and one or more of the following is true:

In addition, referral is appropriate when an individual with an obvious or known disability is observed having difficulty performing the essential functions of his or her job due to that disability. In these cases, you must advise the employee of the referral to the RAC. Referral to the RAC is also appropriate when an Appointing Official questions the medical suitability of an applicant.

Note: Not all requests for accommodation need to be referred to a RAC. For example, if an employee requests specialized equipment, such as an ergonomic chair, and local management can provide the equipment expeditiously, there is no need for RAC involvement.

Verbal requests for reasonable accommodation should be documented for local record keeping and to ensure that every request receives a timely decision (see Exhibit 2-1, Confirmation of Request for Reasonable Accommodation, and Exhibit 2-2, Reasonable Accommodation Decision Guide).

Exception: Once an employee requests and is granted a type of reasonable accommodation that he or she is likely to need on a repeated basis (e.g., a sign language interpreter), then documentation for record-keeping purposes is not required each time the accommodation is needed (see subchapter 26).

Whenever the reasonable accommodation process is activated, you must go through a five-step process to determine whether to provide an accommodation to the job applicant or the employee. The steps are as follows:

  • Step One: Determine whether an individual has a disability.
  • Step Two: Determine the essential functions of the job.
  • Step Three: Identify the abilities and limitations of the individual.
  • Step Four: Identify potential accommodations.
  • Step Five: Determine the reasonableness of the accommodations and select options.

Each step is discussed in detail in subchapter 22.

Remember that the interactive process may require you to consult and work with a number of different people, including the individual, medical and safety personnel, human resources and rehabilitation specialists, and supervisors and managers.

The five-step interactive process is not required if it is definitively clear that an individual is not a qualified individual with a disability. For example, an individual with a temporary condition such as pregnancy or a broken leg is not a qualified individual with a disability (see 141.3).