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The City of Madison provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities or long-term medical conditions. These accommodations include modifications or adjustments to a job duty, practice, process, or the work environment to make it possible for someone with a disability to perform the essential functions of a position.
Our accommodations policy (APM 2-22) is rooted in our vision to be Inclusive, Innovative, and Thriving and have a welcoming and inclusive workplace. This policy applies to all City employees and applicants for City employment. There are currently hundreds of accommodations in place for our employees with disabilities or medical limitations. Approximately 12% of the City’s permanent workforce reports having a disability or a need for an accommodation, or both. One out of four of these employees have mental health conditions. Because it is voluntary to disclose a disability, it is likely that more employees have disabilities than these numbers show.
The City of Madison also employs many individuals with disabilities in a Supported Work Program, and partners with the Department of Workforce Rehabilitation to train and hire employees with disabilities.
- Requirements for accommodations
- Supervisor responsibilities
- Types of accommodations
- The accommodations process
Requirements for accommodations
To qualify for accommodation, an individual with a disability must:
- Be qualified for the position they hold or are applying for. They must meet the minimum knowledge, skill, ability, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the position they hold or are applying for
- Be able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Essential functions are “fundamental” or “core” duties of a position, based on the position description. These functions are the reasons a job exists. For any position, there are some nonessential functions that are peripheral or marginal. Nonessential functions can be transferred to another employee easily, without changing the core responsibilities of a job.
Accommodations must also be reasonable and cannot pose an “undue hardship.” This is determined on a case-by-case basis. The difficulty or expense is considered in the context of the resources and circumstances of a particular agency. If an accommodation is not financially feasible or is extensive, disruptive, or fundamentally changes the service and operations of an agency it may be denied.
There are four key supervisor responsibilities and considerations related to accommodations:
Responding to accommodation requests
Supervisors need to be proactive in recognizing and responding to accommodations request. Employees may not be aware of the accommodation process or know how to ask for support.
Treating employees with disabilities equitably
Supervisors should never diagnose employees or make assumptions about them based on their disability. They should focus on an employee’s job performance and treat employees as they want to be treated. Supervisors can consider strategies to improve access and inclusion for all employees, including continuous improvement to make work safer and more efficient. However, they should never inquire about an employee’s disability or make assumptions about what an employee needs or what they can and cannot do.
Maintaining confidentiality of medical information
Supervisors will only receive information about an accommodation or work restriction. They will not be given any medical information about the underlying disability, though sometimes an employee voluntarily shares this information with their supervisor. Any information, including the fact that an employee is receiving an accommodation, is strictly confidential. If an employee gives their supervisor any detailed medical documentation it should immediately be forwarded to the appropriate Human Resource staff.
Co-workers may notice a modification in someone’s work and want to know why. Supervisors should never share that an employee is receiving an accommodation for a disability or medical condition. Be prepared for these questions and consult with Human Resources if you are unsure how to respond. If you receive requests for information about an employee, always consult with Human Resources before sharing anything.
First aid and safety personnel may be informed of an accommodation when the possibility of emergency treatment exists for the employee’s disability or medical condition.
Working collaboratively with Human Resources
Supervisors need to work collaboratively with the Accommodations Specialist and other Human Resources staff to provide equal access and opportunities to people with disabilities.
Types of accommodations
There are three basic types of reasonable accommodations: hiring process, job, and "equal benefits and privileges" accommodations.
Hiring process accommodations
These accommodations ensure equal opportunity in the application process. They can include:
- Changing the time frame on tests or allowing tests to be read to the applicant
- Relocating tests to an accessible area
- Providing applications/exams in alternative formats such as larger print
- Changing interview formats
These accommodations enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job. They can include:
- Job restructuring - reallocating non-essential duties or altering when and how a function is performed
- Modifying work schedule
- Modifying tools, equipment, workstations
- Providing assistive devices
- Allowing a job coach
- Reassignment, or placement into a vacant position
Equal benefits and privileges accommodations
These accommodations enable an employee with a disability to enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment as similarly situated non-disabled employees. They can include:
- providing accessible buildings, break rooms, lunchrooms and training rooms
- producing forms and documents in alternative formats
- providing readers or assistance to explain various policies and complete enrollment forms
The Accommodation Process
The accommodation process is interactive between the Occupational Accommodations Specialist, the employee and others that need to be involved. Requests for a reasonable accommodation go to the Occupational Accommodations Specialist in Human Resources.
Requests for Accommodations
It is the responsibility of the applicant or employee to inform the City that an accommodation is needed.
Written requests for accommodation
Written requests for accommodation can be received in the following ways:
- Employment Applications: An applicant can check the appropriate box on the City of Madison employment application and provide details of a requested accommodation.
- Declaration of Disability Form: This form can be completed as part of a new employee’s orientation or at any time during their employment.
- Request for a Reasonable Accommodation Form: This form might be submitted to the employee’s supervisor, Department Head, or directly to the Occupational Accommodations Specialist.
Verbal requests for accommodation
An employee can also talk to their supervisor. They may not be aware of the accommodation process and simply ask for a modification to their work. For example, they might complain that the fluorescent lights in their office are a migraine trigger, or that their arm hurts after doing a repetitive task. Supervisors should refer employees who make this type of request to the Occupational Accommodations Specialist.
Worker’s Compensation/ Work-related injuries
Employees sometimes enter the accommodation process after a work-related injury. In these cases, the City’s worker’s compensation administrator provides medical information directly to the Occupational Accommodations Specialist.
Employee Assistance Program
Employees are often referred through the Employee Assistance Program.
Supervisors who are concerned about an employee’s behavior or performance and suspect a medical condition can refer employees to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP staff can provide confidential support and referrals, including referring the employee to the Occupational Accommodations Specialist if the employee has a disability or medical condition. Supervisors should not try to diagnose employees or put them in situations where they feel pressured to share personal or medical information.
Developing and Implementing Accommodations
The Occupational Accommodations Specialist:
- Determines whether the individual meets the eligibility requirements under the policy.
- Determines what additional medical information may be required. The employee requesting the accommodation will be asked to sign an Authorization for the Release of Confidential Information. The information is used to determine the job-related limitations imposed by the individual’s disability and how those limitations might be overcome through reasonable accommodation.
- Meets with the employee to determine job duties, precise work-related limitations and to explore how limitations might be overcome through reasonable accommodation.
- Consults with the supervisor, and as necessary, with health care providers, workers compensation, vocational rehabilitation or other specialists to gather job-related and medical information.
- Performs a job analysis to determine the positions’ purpose and essential functions. The Occupational Accommodations Specialist will determine if the employee is able to perform the essential functions of their current position with or without a reasonable accommodation.
- If a reasonable accommodation can be made which allows the employee to perform the essential functions of their current position, it will be recommended by the Occupational Accommodations Specialist.
In most cases, an accommodation is implemented. However, the accommodation may not be an employee initially requested. The interactive process results in an accommodation that takes into account employee and agency needs and available resources.
When an Accommodation Cannot be Made
In some situations, the City is unable to make an accommodation that would allow a qualified employee to perform the essential functions of their current position safely or effectively In other cases, the only accommodations available would cause an undue hardship for the department. If these situations occur, a reassignment will be considered as an accommodation and a job search will be conducted.
All vacant positions that have been requested to be filled are considered for those needing to be placed as an accommodation. The employee must meet the minimum entry requirements, pass applicable exams for a position and be able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.
If there is not an appropriate opening within the employee’s department, a citywide job search will be conducted for 60 days. Employees may also compete for positions that would be promotional opportunities. If the accommodation process ends and it has not been possible to make any reasonable accommodation, the employee may use the balance of any eligible leave or may exercise any remaining contractual rights, or both. When eligible leave is exhausted, the department and Human Resources Director will proceed jointly in terminating the employee’s employment.
Denial of a Request for a Reasonable Accommodation
Sometimes a request for reasonable accommodation is denied. In these cases, the Department Head and Occupational Accommodations Specialist will notify the requester in writing. This notification will include the reason(s) for denial, information on the City’s complaint process, and contact information and relevant time limits for appealing to civil rights enforcement agencies.