At the University of Iowa, we endeavor to assist applicants and employees who experience difficulties in the application process and/or at work because of a health condition or disability. These experiences can be very different for each individual and may include concerns with communication, concentration, and/or interaction with others. Other abilities could be affected such as the ability to move, see, speak, breathe, sit, hear, learn, etc. An individual could experience difficulties with one or more of these concerns.
You may have heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA). The ADA, as amended, is a federal law that assures people with disabilities are provided with the same opportunities for access and participation as people without disabilities. The law supplements Iowa State Code concerning rights of people with disabilities. The University of Iowa strives to provide equal opportunity in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, hiring, benefits, treatment, etc. When health and/or disability concerns substantially limit one or more known major life activities the University provides reasonable accommodation for the individual to have the same opportunity to work as an individual without a disability.
When health or disability does not substantially limit an individual’s abilities but does cause concern, the University strives to provide reasonable assistance in these situations as well.
Regardless of coverage under these laws, the assistance we provide is in the form of accommodation that reduces or eliminates the difficulty experienced in the application process and/or at work because of a health condition or disability concern. Reducing or eliminating the concern caused by the health condition/disability allows an individual the opportunity to be successful in the application process and/or at work. We assist, guide, and coach the individual and applicable department in the identification of applicable reasonable accommodation. We also refer individuals to appropriate community and University resources, when needed.
There is more information on our website about disability, accommodations, leave and return to work programs, and services of our office. When health/disability is a concern, we encourage applicants to contact our office directly for assistance and employees to begin the process by contacting their Human Resource Representative. The HR Representative contacts our office and we will work with the employee, HR Representative and manager to identify solutions to work difficulties.
Frequently Asked Questions
Disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is three pronged 1, a physical or mental impairment, 2, that substantially limits, 3, one or more major life activities. The ADA Amendments Act greatly altered the definition of disability and many health conditions that had previously not been considered disabilities are now considered disabilities.
Specific to an individual, disability is a mental or physical condition (including side effects of medications or treatment) that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of having such an impairment or being regarded as having a disability.
Physical or mental impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as an intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working; and operation of a major bodily function, including functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin; normal cell growth; and digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions. The operation of a major bodily function includes the operation of an individual organ within a body system.
Substantially limits means the condition limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population.
The FSDS staff seeks to mediate accommodation concerns or issues between a department and employee/applicant using informal dispute resolution procedures. If a mutual agreement is not obtained, FSDS staff submits recommendations and forwards all documents to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD) for compliance review.
Employee: When an employee disagrees with the employing department’s response to the requested accommodation the employee may submit an appeal to the Director of FSDS, 121-20 USB or to EOD, 202 JH. Employees are requested to complete the Disability Accommodation Review Form. Contact FSDS for a copy of this form.
During the review period, the employing department shall not implement changes that negatively impact the employee/applicant and the employee/applicant is to remain working if work is available that is within the medically documented restrictions. If work within the department is not available that is within the medically documented Restrictions, the employee is able to use accrued sick leave or vacation as applicable.
Department: When the employing department believes the requested accommodation is unreasonable, the Department HR Representative is to submit the departments desire to modify or deny the requested accommodation with supporting documentation and rationale to the Director of FSDS, 121-20 USB.
When an employee has a disability that is known to the employer the employer and the employee have distinct responsibilities. The employee must participate in the interactive process and follow-through with reasonable accommodations agreed upon during the process. The employer also has responsibilities before, during, and after the interactive process.
The interactive process is the interaction between the employer, employee and typically FSDS staff that assures each member has a voice in identifying limitations influencing work performance and accommodations needed. The interactive process begins when the employer is aware of a disability and is the strategy to learn about and address the barriers/limitations caused by the disability. The interactive process must be offered to the employee by the employer and may include the employer’s request for medical documentation of disability limitations when limitations are unknown or unclear. The process includes discussion of the limitations, where the limitations influence the employee’s abilities in performing the job and discussion of accommodations that will reduce and/or eliminate the limitations’ influence on the job.
Some disability limitations will require reasonable accommodation, while some can be self-accommodated by the employee and other disability limitations may not impact the job at all.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with a disability when the disability influences work performance unless doing so would cause undue hardship. An accommodation, in general, is any change made to the work environment or work processes that removes workplace barriers and enables an individual with a disability to have equal employment opportunities.
There are two main categories within “accommodations”:
- Applicant: modifications to a work environment and/or processes that enable a qualified individual with a disability to apply and be considered for a position; and
- Employee: modifications to the work environment and/or processes that assures a qualified employee with a disability has opportunity to perform the essential functions of the position and/or to access and receive all benefits and opportunities afforded by the employer to employees without disabilities.
Reasonable accommodation is considered to be an accommodation that does not provide undue hardship to the employer. A listing of reasonable accommodations is a non exhaustive list as each accommodation is individualized to the context of the employee and employer’s situation. For example, a request for Non FMLA Unpaid Leave may be a reasonable accommodation in some situations. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a good resource for simple accommodation ideas.
An unreasonable accommodation is one that creates undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardship is defined as an undue burden such as a change to the organizational structure where the job resides, change to the purpose or intent of the job, and/or monetary expense (note, the EEOC considers the University of Iowa budget and not individual unit budgets in evaluating monetary concerns).
In most cases, the employee’s department is responsible for the cost of the accommodation.
If you feel you are being discriminated against because of a disability, there are a number of University resources, including:
- Your department Human Resources Representative or Senior HR Representative.
- UI Faculty & Staff Disability Services
- UI Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity
- Office of the Ombudsperson
Should you feel as though your concern(s) have not been completely resolved and you would like additional resources, you may contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces employment discrimination laws. To locate the nearest field office, please call 800-669-4000, TTY: 800-669-6820.