Reasonable Accommodation and Accessibility for People with Disabilities
This directive provides Agency policy and responsibilities for providing reasonable accommodation and accessibility to people with disabilities.
III. REASON FOR ISSUANCE
This directive updates information previously found in FSIS Directive 4306.1.
FSIS Directive 1510.1, Equal Opportunity Notification on Material for the Public
FSIS Directive 4306.1, Employment of People with Disabilities (Including Disabled Veterans)
FSIS Directive 4530.3, Salary Rate Determinations for General Schedule Employees
FSIS Directive 4610.5, Alternative Work Schedules
FSIS Directive 4610.7, Flexiplace/Telecommuting Program
FSIS Directive 4630.2, Leave
DM 4300-2, Reasonable Accommodation Procedures
Sections 501 and 508, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended
5 CFR 353, Restoration to Duty from Uniformed Service or Compensable Injury
5 CFR 1201.3, Appellate Jurisdiction
29 CFR 1614.103, Complaints of Discrimination
V. ABBREVIATIONS AND FORMS
The following will be referred to in their shortened form in this directive:
- ADR Alternative Dispute Resolution
- ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange
- CAP Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program
- DEP Disability Employment Program
- DEPC Disability Employment Program Coordinator
- DEPM Disability Employment Program Manager
- EEO Equal Employment Opportunity
- EEOC Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- FAX Facsimile Machine
- FRS Federal Relay Service
- HRD Human Resources Division
- HRFO Human Resources Field Office
- JAN Job Accommodation Network
- KSA Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
- OHRM Office of Human Resources Management
- OPM Office of Personnel Management
- SHRO Servicing Human Resources Office
- TARGET Technology Accessible Resources Gives Employment Today
- TDD/TTY Telecommunications Device for the Deaf
It is FSIS policy to:
A. Make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless it causes undue hardship to the Agency.
B. Ensure that buildings, events and materials are accessible to people with disabilities.
A. Parts One and Two of this directive cover FSIS employees and applicants whose medical condition or impairment meets the EEOC’s definition of a disability. (See Subparagraph VIII. C.)
B. Part Three covers people with disabilities who need access to Agency events and materials.
C. Part Four covers agency officials and employees who need information on reasonable accommodation resources.
A. Commuting Area. The defined geographic area in which people live and from which they reasonably can be expected to travel to and from on a daily basis for employment purposes.
B. Decision Makers. Individuals responsible for making decisions regarding various aspects of the reasonable accommodation process. Possible decision makers include: an interviewing official, an employee’s supervisor or manager, a medical officer, the Disability Employment Program Coordinator or Manager, or a human resources specialist.
1. The EEOC statutory definition of disability, for an individual is:
- a. A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- b. A record of such an impairment, or
- c. Being regarded as having such an impairment.
2. Subparagraphs b. and c. focus on the reactions of other people to a person having a history of impairment or a perceived impairment. They reflect Congressional recognition that stereotyped assumptions about what constitutes a disability, or unfounded concerns about limitations of individuals with current or previous impairments, form major discrimatory barriers.
3. Disability does not include temporary physical or mental impairments, or medical conditions that may have a short-term impact on an employee’s performance, example: a broken leg.
D. Disability Employment Program (DEP). The Agency’s plans and procedures that implement applicable laws, regulations, and policies related to the employment of qualified people with disabilities and disabled veterans.
E. Disability Employment Program Coordinator (DEPC). An HRD specialist who provides advice and assistance to program officials and employees on day-to-day issues involving reasonable accommodation and disability, including whether an employee’s condition meets the definition of disability.
F. Disability Employment Program Manager (DEPM). An HRD specialist, who coordinates the program, provides guidance and assistance to DEPCs, and develops Agency directives and notices on disability issues, as necessary.
G. Essential Job Function. A duty so fundamental to a position that an employee cannot do the job without being able to perform it. The manager or supervisor may consider a job function essential for any of several reasons, including, but not limited to:
- The position exists primarily to perform that function.
- The function is specialized and the employee was hired for the ability to perform it.
- The function is required and cannot be assigned to another employee.
H. Impairment. Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitor-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
I. Interactive Process. An informal communication process between Agency officials and the employee or applicant in which they discuss a reasonable accommodation request, especially if the need for the accommodation is not obvious. The interactive process helps identify what type of accommodation might best help the person apply for a job or perform the essential functions of a job. Agency officials may offer alternative suggestions for reasonable accommodations during this process.
J. Major Life Activities. Functions that the average person in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty, including but not limited to: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, thinking, concentrating, and interacting with others.
K. Qualified Person with a Disability. A person with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, meets the qualification requirements for the position, and can perform the essential functions of the position without endangering self or others. (Example: Must meet the education or experience and medical requirements of the position.)
L. Substantially Limiting. The degree to which an impairment prevents someone from performing a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform, or significantly restricts the condition, manner, or duration under which someone can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform that same major life activity. To determine if an impairment is substantially limiting, consider the nature, severity, duration, and the permanent or long-term impact resulting from the impairment.
A. Employees. Employees, or their representatives:
- Advise appropriate Agency officials that they have a disability that requires an accommodation.
- Provide requested supporting documentation.
- Participate in the interactive process.
B. Management Officials. Managers and supervisors:
- Actively pursue possibilities for reasonable accommodation. (See Part Two.)
- Participate in the interactive process.
C. DEP Manager and Coordinators.
1. Disability Employment Program Manager.
- a. Ensures Agency compliance with its obligations to provide reasonable accommodation.
- b. Provides direction and guidance to DEPCs on reasonable accommodation policies and requests.
- c. Maintains liaison with the USDA manager. Prepares reports and provides statistics to Agency and USDA officials.
- d. Develops policy and program initiatives for Agencywide implementation.
- e. Maintains up-to-date knowledge of auxiliary aids and devices available for reasonable accommodation.
2. Disability Employment Program Coordinators.
- a. Work with Agency employees to identify needs and plan for reasonable accommodation.
- b. Provide guidance to supervisors and managers on reasonable accommodation policies and requests.
- c. Record accommodation requests and decisions for tracking purposes. (See Attachment 2-4.)
- d. Provide reasonable accommodation data to Agency and EEOC personnel for information and reporting purposes.
X. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Obtain additional information or clarification on this directive from the Employment and Benefits Policy Branch at 202-720-9866.
PART TWO—REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION Section One—General Provisions
I. APPROPRIATE USE
A. Reasonable accommodation includes:
1. Changing a job application process to permit someone with a disability to be considered for a job. (Example: Providing application forms in alternative formats like large print or Braille.)
2. Making necessary changes for a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, such as:
- a. Providing sign language interpreters, readers, or personal assistants.
- b. Approving leave as appropriate. (See FSIS Directive 4630.2).
- c. Modifying nonessential duties.
- d. Modifying the work schedule. Example: Alternative work schedules. (See FSIS Directive 4610.5.)
- e. Acquiring or modifying equipment, or providing auxiliary aids and devices. (Examples: TTYs, telephone amplifiers, Braille devices, adapted hardware and software for computers.)
- f. Making the work environment accessible and usable.
- g. Permitting telework or telecommuting. (See FSIS Directive 4610.7.)
- h. Reassigning an employee to a vacant position at the same or lower grade level with no further promotion potential than the employee’s current or previous position.
3. Making changes for employees with disabilities to enjoy equal employment benefits and privileges. (Example: Removing physical barriers in a cafeteria).
B. The Agency is not required to change the essential functions of a position to provide accommodation for someone with a disability.
C. The Agency is not required to provide accommodation, if it will cause an undue hardship on program operations.
A. Applies to people who meet Subparagraph a. or b. of the definition of disability in Part One, Subparagraph VIII. C. 1.
B. Applies to a returning employee who incurred or aggravated a disability during uniformed service or after an on-the-job injury.
C. Does not apply to people who are only “regarded as” having an impairment.
D. Does not apply to people with a relationship or association with a person with a disability.
III. GENERAL ACCOMMODATION CRITERIA
- Determine reasonable accommodation using the facts of each case; not generalizations, perceptions or stereotypes about a disability. Each person’s limitations from a disability are unique, therefore evaluate each accommodation request on its own merits. What is “reasonable” in one situation may not be reasonable in another, or in the same situation at a different time.
- Supervisors must use good judgment and a fair, common sense approach to make the decision.
- Employees are usually the best source of information about the accommodation, and should discuss their needs with the supervisor so the request is clearly understood.
- If several accommodations are proposed, the decision maker is not required to select the employee’s first choice, as long as the accommodation selected provides a means for the person to perform the essential job functions.
B. Specific Factors to Consider. The decision maker must consider the following to determine whether an accommodation can be made:
- Employee’s disability and resulting limitations as they relate to the job requirements.
- Essential job functions.
- Work environment.
- How the accommodation will impact program or business operations.
IV. TIMEFRAMES FOR PROCESSING REQUESTS AND PROVIDING REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION
A. General Timeframes. Many accommodation decisions can be made and the accommodation provided within a few days. Since special circumstances may influence timing of this process, follow these timelines.
- The accommodation request consideration process should begin as soon as the appropriate official receives an oral or written request from a person or representative. However, the process begins no more than 5 business days from the date of the oral or written request.
- When the person has an obvious or previously documented condition that qualifies as a disability and the accommodation requested is related to limitations caused by that condition, the first line supervisor determines if the accommodation is effective. If so, the supervisor provides the accommodation in no more than 30 business days from the date of the written or oral request.
- When the person does not have an obvious or previously documented condition that qualifies as a disability, the recipient of the request forwards it to the DEPC within 3 business days of receipt.
- With the employee’s permission, the DEPC requests any additional documentation from the appropriate source within 5 business days.
- Within 5 business days of receipt of the documentation, the DEPC consults with a physician, as necessary, and makes a decision on whether or not the employee has a disability.
- When documentation is necessary, the 30-business-day period for the supervisor or manager to respond to the accommodation request begins on the date the DEPC issues the decision identified in Subparagraph IV.A.5.
B. Extensions. It may be necessary to extend the processing timeframes due to extenuating circumstances.
1. Some examples of extenuating circumstances are:
- a. Equipment purchase may take longer than 30 days.
- b. The employee with a disability needs to try out equipment before purchase can be made.
- c. New staff must be hired or contracted, or an accommodation involves removing architectural barriers.
2. The supervisor notifies the employee of the reason for a delay, and the approximate date on which a decision or provision of the reasonable accommodation is expected.
3. The supervisor investigates whether temporary measures can be taken to assist the employee. The supervisor may also use a temporary measure while the Agency is obtaining or evaluating documentation to determine if the employee has a covered disability.
4. FSIS Is not obligated to continue or offer further accommodations if the employee’s condition is not a covered disability.
V. UNDUE HARDSHIP CRITERIA
A. An accommodation is not provided when the action will incur significant difficulty or expense.
B. Undue hardship is determined according to the facts of each case.
C. Factors to consider when determining undue hardship include, but are not limited to:
- Impact of the accommodation on the program’s ability to conduct business.
- Composition, structure, and size of the workforce.
- Location of the worksite and type of facility.
- Nature and cost of the requested accommodation. (Cost is considered in relation to USDA’s available resources.)
Section Two—Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation in the Hiring Process
VII. VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT
The vacancy announcement will:
A. Be accessible to all potential applicants. The SHRO publishes the toll-free TTY number for the FRS on each announcement.
B. Be reviewed by the SHRO to ensure the competencies or KSAs on announcements are required to perform the essential functions of the position.
C. Indicate that people with disabilities may be appointed under special appointing authorities, if applicable.
D. Contain the USDA nondiscrimination statement required by FSIS Directive 1510.1.
E. Contain a reasonable accommodation statement. Example: “This Agency provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify the Agency.”
VIII. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
The SHRO makes reasonable accommodations at the applicant’s request. The SHRO may request only the supporting medical documentation necessary to determine the nature of the disability or how the accommodation will assist with the application process. Expedite requests for accommodation, since the application process is short.
Section Three—Interviews, Inquiries and Medical Examinations in the Hiring Process
A. Reasonable Accommodation for the Interview. The interviewing official responds to accommodation requests for the interview and provides the accommodation, unless it will cause undue hardship.
B. Acceptable Interview Questions. A job interview gives the interviewer and the applicant an opportunity to assess the applicant’s qualifications in relation to the job requirements. The interviewer focuses on the applicant’s abilities, rather than disabilities.
1. The interviewer asks job-related questions that:
- a. Assess the applicant’s KSAs.
- b. Relate to the applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions, tasks, and duties.
2. The interviewer provides information to help the applicant determine the need for accommodation, such as:
- a. Provide information on the job requirements (tasks, duties, responsibilities and work schedule).
- b. Discuss the regular work hours, leave policies, and attendance requirements.
3. The interviewer asks if the applicant can meet work schedule and attendance requirements.
4. The interviewer asks how the applicant will perform a job. Questions may relate to any job activity and are not limited to the essential job functions. Examples:
- a. After describing the job activities, the interviewer may ask, “Can you perform these tasks?”
- b. Only when the applicant indicates the need for an accommodation may the interviewer ask, “How will you perform the tasks, and what accommodation is needed?”
C. Unacceptable Interview Questions. The interviewer may not ask questions about the disability or illness even if disability is visible. Example: The person uses a wheelchair or guide dog, has a missing limb, or has volunteered information about a disability. (Questions about illness may reveal the existence of a disability.) The interviewer may not ask questions regarding the:
1. Nature or severity. Examples:
- a. What is your disability? How did it occur?
- b. How severe is your condition?
2. Causing circumstances or conditions. Examples:
- a. Is your disability hereditary? Is it job-related?
- b. Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what?
- c. Have you had a major illness in the past year?
3. Prognosis or explanation. Examples:
- a. Will the disability improve or worsen?
- b. Is there any health-related reason why you may not be able to perform certain job functions?
- c. Do you have any disability or impairment that may affect your performance in this position?
4. Need for medical treatment or leave usage. Examples:
- a. How many days were you absent from work due to illness last year?
- b. How much leave do you estimate using?
5. Other disability-related factors. Examples:
- a. Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist? If so, for what condition?
- b. Have you ever been treated for any mental condition?
- c. Are you taking any prescribed drugs? If so, what?
- d. Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
- e. Have you ever filed a worker’s compensation claim?
XI. PRE- AND POST OFFER INQUIRIES AND MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS
A. Before an employment offer, Agency officials may not ask any disability-related questions or require any medical examinations, even if they are job-related. EXCEPTION: Agency officials may ask questions in order to provide an accommodation when they realistically believe an accommodation is needed.
B. After an applicant is given a conditional job offer, but before employment, Agency officials may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same job category. If an applicant is screened out because of a disability, the SHRO or the supervisor must document the exclusionary criterion is job-related and consistent with business necessity. The criterion must be, based on objective evidence, that the applicant will:
- Be unable to perform the essential job functions because of a medical condition; or
- Pose a direct threat because of a medical condition. The applicant would pose significant risk of substantial harm to self or others, and the risk cannot be reduced below the “direct threat” level through reasonable accommodation. The threat posed cannot be remote or vague.
XII. REFERENCE CHECKS
A. A rating official may NOT ask previous employers or other sources for information regarding the applicant’s disability or illness.
B. A hiring official may ask an applicant’s previous employer for information regarding:
- 1. Job functions and tasks.
- 2. Quality and quantity of work.
- 3. Job Performance.
- 4. Attendance record. A hiring official may not ask about an applicant’s attendance as it relates to illness or disability. This applies even if the applicant volunteered the information or the hiring official knows that the applicant has a disability. (Example: The hiring official may ask a previous employer, “Could you comment on the applicant’s attendance record while employed with you?”)
- 5. Other job-related issues that do not relate to disability.
- 6. Accommodations made by that employer, if the applicant has a known disability and indicates the ability to do a job with reasonable accommodation.
See full PDF for Attachments
- ACCOMMODATION APPROVAL PROCESS
- ACCOMMODATION DENIAL PROCESS
- DENIAL RECONSIDERATION PROCESS
- REASSIGNMENT EFFORTS
- DISABILITY RETIREMENT
- DOCUMENTING A MEDICAL CONDITION FOR AN ACCOMMODATION REQUEST
- MAINTAINING CONFIDENTIALITY OF MEDICAL INFORMATION
- SAMPLE FSIS FORM 4306-2, AUTHORIZATION TO RELEASE MEDICAL INFORMATION
- SAMPLE DECISION LETTER TO EMPLOYEE
- EMPLOYEE REASSIGNMENT RESPONSE
- SAMPLE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION CASE SUMMARY
- MAKING EVENTS AND MATERIALS ACCESSIBLE
- ACCESSIBILITY AND ACCOMMODATION GUIDELINES
- REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION RESOURCES