Workplace Accommodations for Employees
University of Pittsburgh: ADA Guidance for Employees (Faculty & Staff)
If you wish to discuss new or existing workplace accommodations, please complete this form or call our office at (412) 648-7890 to schedule an appointment or to speak with a member of our staff.
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the University of Pittsburgh (the University) does not discriminate against applicants, employees, students, or guests with qualifying disabilities.
It is the policy of the University to comply with the ADA and all related federal, state and local laws, regarding employment of persons with disabilities in every respect, including application procedures, hiring, advancement, discharge, compensation, training, and other terms/conditions of employment.
This guidance describes the procedures that University employees (including faculty and staff) should use when they believe they require a reasonable accommodation for an ADA-qualifying disability. This guidance also describes the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation protections provided by the ADA and the process employees should use if they believe their ADA rights have been violated.
When an applicant or employee with an ADA-qualifying disability requests accommodation, the University will grant a reasonable accommodation, provided that doing so does not present an undue hardship or cause a direct threat to workplace safety. This section describes the procedures by which an applicant/employee should request a reasonable accommodation.
- If, now or at any point in your employment, you are experiencing a condition/impairment that you believe substantially limits one or more major life activities, you may have a qualifying disability within the meaning of the ADA.
- If you believe you need a reasonable accommodation because of this condition/impairment in order to perform the essential functions of your job, please complete this form or contact the office of Disability Resources and Services (412) 648-7890 to discuss your condition and the nature of your request for accommodation
- If the University deems it appropriate in accordance with the ADA, you will be given an ADA Questionnaire to take to your healthcare provider. The purpose of the ADA Questionnaire is to assist the University in determining whether you: (a) have a qualifying disability within the meaning of the ADA; and (b) if so, whether you can perform the essential functions of your job, with or without reasonable accommodation(s).
- If the University determines that your condition/impairment is an ADA-qualifying disability, the University will determine through the interactive process, which includes advice of your healthcare provider, whether or not you need a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of your job, the duration of your need for a reasonable accommodation, and what, specific, reasonable accommodation(s) the University will provide.
- Where the University determines that your condition does not constitute an ADA-qualifying disability or where your request for accommodation is not reasonable within the meaning of the ADA, the University reserves the right to deny your request for reasonable accommodation and/or to grant you a non-ADA accommodation as a courtesy.
- The University reserves the right to periodically require the employee to provide a recertification of the employee’s need for the accommodation.
Relationship to Other University Policies
Where an employee requires time off from work as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, the employee will generally be required to concurrently exhaust all available paid time off and Family Medical Leave Act leave (if applicable).
Employees may also request concurrent time off and/or job modifications in accordance with the other applicable University Leave Policies found in the Faculty/Staff Handbook.
Discrimination and Retaliation Prohibited
In accordance with the ADA, the University strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment of applicants/employees with qualifying disabilities. If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination/harassment on this basis, you should report it to your immediate supervisor and/or the Institutional Equity Manager in the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (412)648-7860.
The University also strictly prohibits retaliation against any individual who requests a reasonable accommodation, complains about disability discrimination/harassment, and/or participates as a witness in an investigation of alleged disability discrimination/harassment. Likewise, if you believe you have been subjected to retaliation as described herein, you should report it to your immediate supervisor and/or Institutional Equity Manager in the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (412)648-7860.
In turn, the University will conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, during which your confidentiality will be protected to the greatest extent practicable. Employees determined to have engaged in disability discrimination, harassment or retaliation shall be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.
Workplace Accommodations FAQ’s
- What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law signed in 1990 and amended in 2008 that protects the rights of people with disabilities and prevents discrimination on the basis of disability. It requires private employers, local and state governments, and providers of public services to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.
- What employees are protected under the ADA?
All qualified employees who have a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities are protected from illegal discrimination. If the condition affects the individual’s ability to perform essential job functions, the employee may request a reasonable accommodation. Other individuals who are protected under the ADA include those who have a record of a disability and/or those who are regarded as having a disability.
- What is considered a disability under the ADA?
Under the ADA, a disability is defined as:
a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, including major bodily functions
the record of such an impairment (for example, someone having recovered from cancer or a serious illness)
being regarded by others as having an impairment (such as individuals with severe facial scarring)
The ADA does not list every disability, however, examples of specific impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities include deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
- Who is a qualified employee with a disability?
A qualified employee with a disability is a person who satisfies all the prerequisites and can perform the essential functions of the position that the individual holds or desires, either with or without reasonable accommodation.
- What does it mean to be substantially limiting?
An impairment “substantially limits” a major life activity if the person is either:
unable to perform a major life activity that the average person can perform
is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a person performs the activity as compared to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general public performs the activity
The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made using an individualized assessment and without regard to mitigating measures which include but are not limited to medication, prosthetics, hearing devices, or mobility devices. An impairment that is episodic or in remission may also meet the definition of disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
- What are major life activities?
Major life activities are activities that are fundamental to life and that the average person can perform with little or no difficulty including, but not limited to: caring for oneself, walking, talking, breathing, sitting, lifting, seeing, performing manual tasks, reaching, learning, speaking, working, standing, etc.
Major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function including, but not limited to: normal cell growth, as well as functions related to digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, endocrine, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive systems.
To be covered under the ADA, the person must have an impairment that significantly limits one or more of these major life activities. The examples listed above are not exhaustive.
- What are essential functions?
Essential functions are those job activities that are determined by the University to be essential or core to performing the job; these functions cannot be modified.
- What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables an otherwise qualified applicant or employee to perform the essential functions of their job. It is one that allows the person with a disability to participate in a comparable way as those without disabilities without imposing “undue hardship.” It is the employee’s responsibility to request the accommodation and to supply the proper medical documentation supporting the need for such modification.
Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
Making existing workspaces and facilities readily accessible and usable
Modifying work schedules
Acquiring or modifying equipment
Appropriately modifying documents, training, or other programs, etc.
Employers are not required to lower quality or quantity standards to make an accommodation, nor are they obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.
The decision as to the appropriate accommodation for a specific individual must be based on the facts of each case and whether the accommodation will enable the person with a disability to do the job in question.
- What is an undue hardship?
An undue hardship is an action requiring significant difficulty or expense by the University.
- What is a direct threat?
A direct threat is a significant risk to the health, safety or well-being of individuals with disabilities or others when the risk cannot be eliminated by reasonable accommodation.
- How do I obtain accessible parking on campus?
If you have a short or long-term disability and require on-campus parking, contact the Parking Services Office to identify potential parking options at 412-624-4034 or via email at email@example.com.
- Do I have to tell my supervisor or the University if I have been diagnosed with a medical condition or disability?
No, you do not have to disclose a medical condition or disability if it does not interfere with your ability to perform your responsibilities or require an accommodation. If your condition worsens, you can reserve the right to notify DRS at that time, however, if you choose not to disclose your condition, neither the University, nor DRS, will be aware of potential accommodation needs.
- Will I be asked to provide verification of my disability if I request a workplace accommodation?
Yes, DRS may ask you to provide verification of your physical or mental condition from a health care professional to support your request. The type of documentation necessary to verify the disability may vary depending on the nature and extent of the disability and the accommodation requested.
- How will my workplace accommodation request be evaluated?
DRS will meet with you individually to discuss your request and explain the process. After DRS receives the verification of the physical or mental condition from the health care professional, they will determine whether your medical condition is considered a disability under the ADA. If your condition is protected by the ADA, DRS will work with your department to determine whether your requested workplace accommodation is appropriate and whether it will be effective in allowing you to perform the essential functions of your job.
- What if my condition is not considered a disability under the ADA?
Temporary impairments, such as pregnancy, sprains or strains are not typically covered under the ADA. While you may have a physical or mental impairment that may not be covered under the ADA, you could be protected under a variety of state or federal provisions (such as the FMLA or Worker's Compensation insurance). If DRS determines the condition is not covered by the ADA, DRS is available to communicate with your department to explore options as deemed appropriate. You may also want to consult with HR Benefits department and/or Met Life regarding potential leave options.
- Who will receive information about my health condition and/or my request for a workplace accommodation?
Disability-related information, including requests for workplace accommodations and medical documentation, is treated as confidential and access is limited to protect your privacy. Information regarding your workplace accommodation and/or physical/mental limitations will be provided on a need-to-know basis. Generally, DRS will work closely with your supervisor to evaluate a workplace accommodation, however, specific information related to your medical condition is not shared. Requests for workplace accommodations and accompanying documentation are maintained with DRS and as such, kept separate from your departmental personnel file.
- Is my employer required to approve my first preference for an accommodation?
Not necessarily. Employers must offer accommodations that are effective, which may or may not be the employee’s first choice or preference for an accommodation. The appropriateness of an accommodation must be analyzed in its specific context through an interactive process between the employer and the employee.
- How will I know if my accommodation has been approved?
After DRS consults with your department, you will receive a response in writing to your University email. The response will include:
University acknowledgment of your disability under the ADA
Follow up instructions if there are difficulties in obtaining the approved accommodation
If my disability accommodation involves the approved University purchase of equipment/office furniture etc., who is responsible for finding appropriate equipment to be purchased?
Once the interactive process between the employee and the supervisor and/or unit has been completed and the employee’s accommodation has been approved, it is the employee’s responsibility to work with their supervisor and/or business manager of the unit to find a vendor, and/or research the product availability and reliability.
- Who is responsible for purchasing equipment, items, or services related to disability accommodations?
If the equipment/item/service is for an employee that has gone through the interactive process with DRS, the employee’s department will pay for the equipment/item/service.
- My supervisor and I have spoken about my condition, and we have come to an understanding that works for me. Why do I need to formalize my request for accommodation?
A formalized accommodation protects you in case your supervisor changes or your relationship with your supervisor changes. Your accommodations plan can also be updated if your job duties change, or you take a new job at the university. If your medical condition changes, accommodations can be updated if appropriate.
- I have already received a disability accommodation. However, my condition has changed and I need different or additional accommodations in order to perform my responsibilities. What do I do?
If at any time your accommodations are not effective, you are encouraged to contact DRS for a re-evaluation of your accommodation needs. Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to provide further documentation to support your need for different or additional accommodations.
- Will DRS contact me if my employee makes a request?
Yes. As a part of our interactive process, we speak with the employee’s supervisor to discuss the requested accommodations in consideration of the essential job functions and the departmental needs.
- My employee gave me medical documentation, such as a doctor’s note and asked for an accommodation. What should I do?
Please contact DRS and forward all relevant documentation to the attention of the Employee Accommodation Coordinator. Please do not save or make copies of any medical documentation. You may also return the document to your employee and refer them to DRS to pursue their request.
- My employee has returned to work from FMLA, STD, LTD or from a procedure/injury with a listing of restrictions from either MetLife or a medical provider. Do I refer them to DRS upon return?
It depends. Any documentation relating to a medical condition or injury should be given to your designated department representative (HR/Faculty Affairs as applicable) to review and process accordingly. If it ever comes into question as to whether a disability exists, the employee should be referred to DRS for review.
Example: An employee is released back to work after a surgical procedure/STD with restrictions to be off their feet for 3-4 weeks. The department can allow a multitude of potential avenues to allow the employee to work and be off their feet as per the recommendations by the medical provider. If the recovery is taking longer and the employee requests continued restrictions, a referral to DRS is recommended to determine if the medical condition is a qualified disability requiring accommodation considerations.