Human Resources Policies

HR09 Reasonable Accommodation For University Employees

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Alan Finnecy, 814-863-0471,

Policy Steward: 

Vice President for Human Resources

POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: February 3, 2009 




This policy outlines an employee's rights and responsibilities in accordance with Penn State's procedures for requesting a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.


This guideline applies to all University employees.


(a) Disability

An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.

(b) Qualified Employee With a Disability

A qualified employee with a disability is an individual who meets the requirements for the position and who can, with or without reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the job in question.

(c) Essential Functions

The term "essential functions" means the fundamental job duties of the employment position the individual with a disability holds or desires. The term "essential functions" does not include the marginal functions of the position. A job function may be considered essential for any of several reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • The function may be essential because the reason the position exists is to perform that function;
  • The function may be essential because of the limited number of employees available among whom the performance of that job function can be distributed; and/or
  • The function may be highly specialized so that the incumbent in the position is hired for his or her expertise or ability to perform the particular function.

(d) Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job related activity, an employment practice, or the work environment that makes it possible for a qualified employee with a disability to perform essential job functions and to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

A few examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters.

(e) Interactive Process

The interactive process is the informal confidential dialogue between the University and the employee to identify reasonable accommodation(s).

(f) Undue Hardship Exception

The University is required to make a reasonable accommodation for a qualified employee with a disability if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the University's business. Undue hardship (for University purposes) is defined as an action that would be unduly burdensome, or that would fundamentally alter the nature and structure of the operation or unit where the employee is currently working. The University is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation.


(a) Making a Request for Reasonable Accommodation

An employee who wishes to request a reasonable accommodation (or another person wishing to request a reasonable accommodation on behalf of an employee) can choose to make the request in either of the following ways:

  • Complete a Reasonable Accommodation Request Form.
  • Contact the immediate supervisor, Human Resources Representative, or ADA Coordinator in the Affirmative Action Office. When a request is made verbally, employees seeking a reasonable accommodation should follow up the verbal request either by completing the Reasonable Accommodation Request Form or otherwise confirming their request in writing (email is acceptable) to the ADA Coordinator.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employers and other entities covered by GINA Title II from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual or family member of the individual, except as specifically allowed by this law. To comply with this law, we are asking that employees and health care providers not provide any genetic information when responding to a request for medical information. 'Genetic Information' as defined by GINA includes an individual's family medical history, the results of an individual's or family member's genetic tests, the fact that an individual or an individual's family member sought or received genetic services, and genetic information of a fetus carried by an individual or an individual's family member or an embryo lawfully held by an individual or family member receiving assistive reproductive services.


(b) Determination of Disability

After the initial request is made, a determination is made by the ADA Coordinator as to whether the employee has a disability as defined by applicable federal and state laws. The employee may be required to submit documentation to substantiate their request (see [d.] below). Submitted documentation will be confidentially maintained in a file separate from an employee's personnel file. The ADA Coordinator may consult with appropriate University representatives to determine if the condition meets the definition of disability as defined by applicable federal and state laws.

If the employee's condition is determined not to be a disability (as defined by applicable federal and state laws), the employee will be notified that their request is denied.

(c) Interactive Process

The interactive process takes place after the employee's condition is determined to be a disability as defined by applicable federal and state laws.

The exact nature of the dialogue will vary. In some instances, both the disability and the type of accommodation required will be obvious, and thus there may be little or no need to engage in any discussion. In other situations, the University may need to ask questions concerning the nature of the disability and the individual's functional limitations in order to identify an effective accommodation. While the individual with a disability does not have to be able to specify the precise accommodation, he or she does need to describe the problems posed by the workplace barrier. Additionally, suggestions from the employee with a disability may assist the University in determining the type of reasonable accommodation to provide. Where the individual or the University are not familiar with possible accommodations, the University may consult with public and/or private resources to help identify reasonable accommodations once the specific limitations and workplace barriers have been ascertained.

(d) Documentation of Disability

The University may require that a request for a reasonable accommodation be supported by documentation. If required, the employee will be provided with a Request for Documentation of Physical / Mental Health Condition or Disability form. The employee may also be provided with information that identifies the essential functions of the position. The employee has the responsibility to submit this form and information to the health care provider. The employee also has the responsibility to ensure that the health care provider completes and returns the form to the University.


If an employee is dissatisfied with the decision reached by the ADA Coordinator, the employee may appeal to the Associate Vice President for Affirmative Action (814-863-0471).


HR01 - Fair Employment Practices

AD91 - Discrimination and Harassment and Related Inappropriate Conduct

Date Approved: 

July 15, 2011

Date Published: 

July 15, 2011

Effective Date: 

July 15, 2011