EARN Webinar: Reasonable Accommodations: The Foundation for a Disability-Inclusive Federal Workforce

>>Hello, everyone. My
name is Brett Sheats, and
it’s my pleasure to welcome you to
today’s webinar, Reasonable
Accommodations: The Foundation for a Disability-
Inclusive Federal Workforce,
which is hosted by the Employer Assistance and
Resource Network on Disability
Inclusion, or as we are more often called
EARN. This is in collaboration
with the U. S Department of Labor’s
Office of Disability
Employment Policy, otherwise known as ODEP. Before we go
any further, just checking in
with Ed. Ed, can you hear me?>>I
can hear
you.>>All right, guys,
let’s get going then. We’re
pleased to welcome our special guests today. First,
we have Anupa Iyer who
is Policy Advisor the Office of Federal
Operations for Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. We also have Vonda
Bell. She is Acting Director
Office of Agency Services and Acting Chief Human
Capital Officer for the
Farm Credit Administration. And finally, we
have Tracie DeFreitas, Lead
Consultant for the Job Accommodation
Network, also known
as JAN. This webinar will
explore best practices
for implementing and evaluating reasonable
accommodations in the federal
workforce. You will also learn about
resources that can help
strengthen accommodation policies and processes within
agencies. Today’s webinar was
developed in response to ideas that were
discussed and questions that
were asked during past Federal Exchange Unemployment
and Disability or FEED
meetings, and we would like to welcome all
of our FEED members today
that are joining us as well as everybody else. If
you’ve not yet joined FEED,
we encourage you to do so by going to the FEED
page on AskEARN. org.
You can find a link to the FEED page on the
AskEARN homepage. Next slide
please. I have the pleasure of serving as
the National Project Director for
EARN. We are so pleased that you could join
us today to discuss this
important topic. I would l ike to start by noting that
immediately following today’s
webinar, you will be asked to complete a
survey about your experience.
EARN encourages you to please do so in
order to help us continue
to provide substantive webinars moving forward. Next slide
please. For those of you
who might not know, EARN is designed to
be an employer’s central source
for guidance, tools, and resources on fostering a
disability-inclusive work place
culture. We are a resource for all employers,
public and private, seeking
to recruit, to hire, retrain, and advance people
with disabilities. We are funded
by the U. S. Department of Labor’s Office
of Disability Employment Policy,
also known as ODEP, under a cooperative
agreement with the Viscardi
Center, and together we bring a collaborative
of partners with expertise
in technical assistance, training, and research. Next
slide please. Most of you
are joining us through the WebEx platform today, and
you are hearing the audio
by voice over IP through your computers. The
audio is also available over
a phone line for those of you who would
like to listen to today’s
event in that way. The conference call phone number
is 415-655-0045. The conference
code is 664 322 884. For technical support
during the webinar, please
post your issue within the Q and A
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contact WebEx directly, and you
can reach them at 866-229-3239. A copy
of today’s presentation slide
is available from AskEARN. org. This webinar
is also being recorded, and
you will receive a follow-up email within the
next week which details
how to access the archived event. Please note
that we will be
accepting questions from the audience today through our
discussion. You can submit
your questions by typing them into the Q
and A window or through
the chat feature on your screen. You can
also submit questions
via email at [email protected] org or via
Twitter by using the
#AskEARN or by DM [phonetic] at @AskEARN.
We are live captioning
this webinar, which you can follow along within
the captioning window at the
bottom of your screen. You must open the
window titled Media Viewer
to display the captioning. Some of you may also
be interested to know that
this webinar has been approved for one general
recertification credit hour
through the Society for Human Resource Management or
SHRM. Details in receiving
this credit will be sent to participants within
a week following the event.
Stay tuned for an email from the Viscardi
Center on behalf of
EARN with that information. Next slide. Now, before we
get started, I would like
for you to answer one quick question. This is being
asked to provide sort of
a baseline of your knowledge and comfort level
with our topic today.
Please note that your responses are completely
anonymous, and answering
the question honestly is essential to helping
us understand your needs
and our effectiveness. So, please take a quick moment
to answer it. The question
should be on your screen there. That question is: On
a scale of 1 to 5,
how would you rate your understanding of reasonable
accommodations for federal
workers? The scale is one equals
very little understanding, and
five equals extensive understanding. I will give you
a second to answer that.
Just a second here for us to tabulate the
results. All right. Looks like we
had a problem with our polling feature because
it’s saying that absolutely
nobody answered the question. Sorry about that, but
we’ll come back, and we’ll
figure out what the issue is, and if we can
get you the results, we will
include them in our email after the webinar. Let’s go
ahead to the next slide.
It’s my pleasure to introduce Anupa Iyer. Anupa’s
Policy Advisor for the
Office of Federal Operations at the
Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, EEOC. Anupa is a vital part of the
partnership between EEOC, DOL,
and OPM that manages FEED. We are very happy to
have her with us today.
EARN’s efforts in the federal sector would not
be possible without Anupa’s
partnership and EEOC. We are really pleased to have
her today. Anupa, the floor is
yours. Take it away.>>Thank you so much
for the wonderful introduction,
Brett. To get started, I thought we would
just kind of start
off with some foundations about reasonable accommodations in
the federal sector and
what needs to be in reasonable accommodations
procedures. Next slide. In
terms of an overview, I think it’s important
to just start off with
explaining what is a reasonable accommodation. This
is really key because
the purpose of agency reasonable accommodation
procedures is to explain
how to request and how to receive
a reasonable accommodation and
what steps each individual along the process
needs to take. And
that’s one of the fundamental cores of why
in the federal government,
we — agencies are required to issue reasonable
accommodation procedures.
By having clear procedures and a clear
process in place, each and
every person, both the requester, a supervisor,
disability program manager
knows what they need to do in order to
make sure that reasonable
accommodations when they are necessary are provided. Reasonable
accommodation is a change
in the way things are done at work
that enables an individual with
a disability to apply for a job, do a
job, or enjoy equal access to
a job’s benefits and privileges. It’s really important that
when you’re reviewing your
procedures or drafting your procedures, that the
procedures address each aspect
of what types of reasonable accommodations are
available. And if there’s
different types of processes for benefits
and privileges versus applicants,
the procedures need to address that as well.
Next slide. I also wanted
to go over the eligibility requirements for reasonable
accommodation because that’s
something I’ve seen in a lot of
procedures where there can be
some confusion about who is qualified or eligible to receive
a reasonable accommodation.
First off, I think it’s important to note that
the standards here, (a) the
person has to meet the definition of disability under
Section 501, and (b) they have
to be qualified for the job they have
or want. That’s really
to receive a reasonable accommodation, but to be
clear, anybody can make
the request. So, the procedures should really be
clear on that and not
limit who can actually request an accommodation because
that is something that
could end up posing some sort of an
issue. In terms of the
definition of disability, the Americans with Disabilities
Amendment Act was passed in
2008, and the EEOC issued regulations pursuant
to the ADAAA, and
the ADA was amended, and our regulations make it
pretty clear that the purpose
here is to ensure that the definition of
disability and how that is
considered in terms of disability discrimination is as
broad as possible. Really,
it’s to — when you are reviewing procedures or
reviewing your reasonable
accommodation request, the focus should not —
you should not really be
focusing on, does this person meet the criteria of a
person with a disability? What
you really want to be looking at are, are they
qualified for the job? Is
this the right reasonable accommodation? I think that’s
something I just really
want to stress that, definition of disability is
really broad, and to
look through EEOC’s regulations as well as the
interpretive guidance to the ADA
regs because that actually explains a lot of
how the reasonable accommodation
process should work, as well as who is
a person with a disability and
the changes to the ADA. Next slide. When you
are reviewing — when you
are actually drafting your procedures, or actually,
if you are walking
through the reasonable accommodation process for someone
at your agency, you
want to ensure that in terms of the
procedures, it clearly explains
who can request a reasonable accommodation. The
EEOC when we
updated our regulations under Section 501 of the Rehab
Act, we lay a lot of
the language out in terms of what needs to be
in the procedures, and then the
procedure is in terms of who can request, that’s an
individual, to an applicant or
an employee, it could also be a request made
by a third party on that
person’s behalf. It needs to be really clear who can request
it. And then how to make
a request. In a lot of procedures that have —
that we have approved, make
that pretty clear that you don’t have to
use any special words, plain
language, and I highly recommend looking at some
of the facts sheets that
EEOC has on our website about how
to request a reasonable
accommodation. Because the language there is pretty clear,
and you could use that
in terms of your own procedures. Another thing that
I wanted — the couple
other things I wanted to highlight on this slide
is that in a number
of procedures and under our reasonable accommodation guidance,
an agency must
begin the processing of the reasonable accommodation
request as soon it’s
made regardless of how it’s made. If it’s
made verbally or inviting, it’s
really clear, key, that the timeframe that you have to
begin the RA process and
that the process is initiated, begins at the
moment that request is made.
If your agency uses reasonable accommodation
request forms, it’s key that the
language in the forms don’t contradict
the requirement that the
agency begins processing the request as soon as it’s
made. So, if you make a
request to any of the authorized individuals, which
should be your first line
supervisor, second line supervisor, or if your
agency has a disability program
manager. If the request is made to any
of those individuals, then
the timeframe for processing begins at that moment, and
then if you have a form,
you can’t require that the form be completed in
order for the agency
to begin the reasonable accommodation process. I suggest
looking at the fine print of
a lot of the forms to ensure that the
forms don’t have language that
state, “We will begin the RA process, but if
you fail to complete this form,
we will be unable to process your request. ”
That’s something we have
found as noncompliant in our review of agency
procedures. Next slides In
terms of the reasonable accommodation procedure, it’s also
key to set out who
is the decision maker. That’s not just listing
out the supervisor. It really
needs to explain if it’s the supervisor, if it’s
the second line supervisor, or
if it’s someone in a centralized office such as
a disability program manager.
Depending on who that decision maker is, if
it’s a supervisor, but you
also– for applicants or others, if the decision maker
in that case might be the
HR office, to state that if you are an employee,
the decision maker is your
supervisor, for all others, the decision maker is
the disability program manager,
for example. And then you need to include contact
information for that office, and
it can be, it doesn’t have to be the
specific person’s name because we
all know people — there might be a number
of different people in that role,
so I suggest having a centralized mailbox for
reasonable accommodation on
questions that is part for all the folks who
are doing this work are able
to access it. Another thing to consider in terms
of the decision maker is
if supervisors have the authority to approve or deny
RA requests or if they
are highly involved in the process such as requesting
medical information, it’s key
to ensure that your supervisors are trained
on recognizing requests,
eligibility requirements, etc. And make sure to
explain, if you have appendices,
I highly advise adding some information in that
for supervisors. Next slide. The
next set of slides actually walk through the
reasonable accommodation’s office
process, and if we don’t get — I know
we are short on time, but if
I don’t get through all of them, I think you guys can
have this information so that
it’s laid out for you. I actually wanted to
highlight the importance of
describing the interactive process because I find that
is one of the areas
where procedures need to really be clarified. The purpose
of the interactive process is
to figure out, you know, what is this
person have a disability
and what’s the right accommodation for this individual?
I point that out
because the interactive process is informal. It’s ongoing,
and it really is a
conversation to figure out what works, and it should
be individualized. I point this
out because a lot of times I see that
there’s a reliance on, if
medical documentation’s required, that you’re looking for
the provider to establish
what types of reasonable accommodations are needed for
this person, but that’s actually
all part of the interactive process. And
accommodation needs contained,
and I am really glad that Jan is on
part of this today because they
do have some really great tools for you or for
your managers or employees to
figure out what types of accommodations might work
in their particular situation.
Next slide. This slide goes through the
step-by-step of the interactive
process. The key is to start with, what is
the job? What are the essential
functions? Because that’s how you are going to
be able to figure out
what’s the most effective accommodation. Next slide. As
I said earlier, the second
key thing, as well as an ongoing thing to
keep in mind, are to
really focus on communication. The RA process really
needs to be an ongoing,
interactive communication between the parties involved. If
you have, if it’s a
supervisor and you pull in folks from the IT office
or if a supervisor may
consult with someone in the office in your office of
legal counsel, that’s all great,
but it’s also important that either the supervisor
or it’s a disability
program manager’s also responsible for communicating with
the employee to figure
out what’s the best accommodation for them.
And so, that it really
should be more than exchanging of forms or kind
of looking at did this person
request X, if not we are not providing it.
It’s really communication.
Next slide. Slide three, similar to what I
said is really to then identify
accommodation. Often times an individual may not
know what accommodation they
need, and that’s actually okay. That is, to
figure out, they might know
what the barrier is that they are experiencing, but
they might not know how
can that barrier be reduced. That’s actually the
part of the interactive
process. If an employee, if you have a
request form and they haven’t
filled out what specific accommodation they may need,
that’s okay. That’s a sign
that you guys need to communicate. Next. Finally,
before we close, because
we are almost done here. I think
it’s important to actually
discuss the request for documentation and
when documentation, disability
documentation or medical documentation, may be
requested. An agency may
ask for what’s called reasonable documentation
about the individual’s
disability and functional limitations. Now,
reasonable documentation is
really focused on what are the impairments,
their condition, the nature
of severity of their impairment. How does that
impairment affect their ability
to perform the job, and what types of
accommodation might be
appropriate? It should not be very extensive medical letters,
you are not looking
for reports from psychological studies or actual
lists of medications that
the person is taking. I also caution agencies
from kind of setting
out different standards for different types of disabilities
and the level of
the documentation that you are requesting. We are not
here to question does this
person have a disability, with the sort of perception
that they may or may
not be faking their condition. We are really looking
for, okay, if this
person has a condition, what’s the best solution? And
the second piece is if
initial request does not help the agency identify,
describe the individual’s
disability and functional limitation, the agency may
ask for supplemental
documentation and the core here is may, it’s not a must.
I think we are almost out of
time. Is that right, Brett?>>Yeah, Anupa, I think
that’s about it. You have
a couple minutes if you need to wrap
up anything, but, otherwise, we
can move on.>>Yeah. I actually — just
the last slide here on number
four goes into that in a little bit more detail,
so’s really important to know
when the agency may not ask for
documentation. When the
disability and need for accommodation are obvious
or the individual
has already provided sufficient information.
I highlight the
order there because it’s important to
note that if an agency
is requesting too much documentation and the
individuals already provided
sufficient information for the purposes of the
request, the agency may be in
violation of the Rehab Act. I think I’m going to wrap
up, but with that, there are
additional slides that can help navigate you through this process.
Thank you. I’m turning it
back to Brett.>>All right. Thanks so
much, Anupa. Ed, will you
go ahead and just forward through the slides to Tracie?
While we’re doing that, looks
like we are caught up. Thanks so much, Anupa.
I really appreciate it.
It’s now my pleasure to introduce Tracie DeFreitas
who’s the Lead Consultant
and ADA Specialist with the Job Accommodation
Network. Tracie, the floor
is yours.>>Thanks so much, Brett. Thanks
for having me here today. I am
joining the panel just to be able to offer you all
some information related to
resources that the Job Accommodation Network or
JAN can help you
to implement best practices. I would like to just
start by letting everyone know
about the JAN service. Next slide. For those
of you who are not
familiar with JAN service, we are a
national free consulting
service that provides expert one-on-one consultation
on job accommodation
solutions and federal disability employment laws. We
essentially are here to
offer practical tools and guidance, best practices,
and compliance resources
that aid employers and individuals with
disabilities and engaging in
that interactive process that Anupa was just telling
us about. Essentially, if there
is a medical impairment, a disability related
limitation or restrictions that
impacts an individual’s ability to perform job
duties. We are here to
find solutions that will enable them to do
the work. We kind of
brain storm job accommodation solutions for individuals, and
these could be individuals
who are working in any type of industry in
all job categories and for
any type of impairment that you could imagine.
Another main objective of the
JAN service is to provide targeted technical
assistance on federal laws,
the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehab
Act, a little bit on
the family medical leave act. We don’t offer legal
advice, but we can
certainly explain employer’s responsibilities and
individuals’ rights under
these workplace nondiscrimination laws.
Nationally, JAN actually
represents the most comprehensive resource for
job accommodation information
and technical assistance on these employment
laws. We are funded by
a contract with the Office of Disability Employment
Policy at the U. S.
Department of Labor, but we are located innMorgantown,
West Virginia on campus
at West Virginia University. We are not a
federal agency. Basically, from
Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs, JAN
has served customers across
the country, and around the world even, for
about 35 years, so we’ve been
doing this type of work for a very long time,
and we are here to serve
people all over the country. Next slide. We do
keep quite busy. We
do receive more than 53,000 contacts per year from
people all over the United
States. From that, also, we gain a lot
of information, and so we’ve
become very familiar with what’s going on around the
country in terms of what’s
happening in the world of reasonable accommodation.
Anyone can contact
JAN for information. We primarily serve employers
and individuals with
disabilities, but we also receive contacts
from legal professionals,
educational, rehabilitation, medical, and other professionals
who are seeking information
about the ADA and accommodations, as well
as family members and
friends of individuals with disabilities. We do offer
one-on-one individualized
consultation related to our customer’s specific
concerns. Having information
about the medical impairment or the limitation
involved or a specific
accommodation or ADA question will certainly help
you be connected with
the most appropriate JAN specialist, whether it’s a
motor mobility issue, cognitive,
psychiatric, sensory, immunology, or whether it’s just
technical assistance on the
ADA or the Rehab Act in some way.
The more information you have,
the better we can help you, but to be
quite frank, we meet you
wherever you are in the interactive process or wherever
you are with your
understanding of the regulations. You can contact
us to speak directly
with a consultant and address your specific
concerns. We do maintain
your confidentiality with each contact, and our
services are completely free
of charge, which is something we don’t hear about
these days, so we are there
as a service for you. You can access us through
the telephone, we have an
800 line, you can chat with us on our homepage,
email, text, social media,
so lots of easy ways to get in touch with
a JAN consultant anytime you
have questions. Next slide. We recently launched a
new website, and so I
am kind of using information from the website
to offer you information
that you can easily access related to
implementing best practices
related to reasonable accommodation, so I wanted to
share a little bit about
that with you. The website has not changed,
we are still at AskJAN.
org, that’s A-S-K-J-A-N. org, but you’ll find a new
look and feel to the site.
You will find an extraordinary number of tools and
resources for engaging in
the interactive process and implementing best practices. Some
of the highlights of
AskJAN. org include our A-Z by disability topic
or limitation, and I will talk
a little bit more about that in just a few
minutes. We have a number
of publications, articles, and resources. Many publications that
we have created based
on topics that we hear from people about, and
so a lot of the publications
are sort of driven by that need. We offer free
training and webcasts that you
can access at any time you need them. We
also have an ADA library
with regulations and EEOC guidance documents that can help
make things a little bit
easier in terms of learning about the
enforcement guidance and
understanding how the EEOC interprets the regulations. We
also have a quarterly
E-news and a blog related to trending issues that
you can take advantage of.
So, while most of the information on the JAN
website can be useful to
any type of employer or individual, we do include
some targeted tools and
resources specifically for federal employers, and so I
wanted to make you aware
of those. Next slide. So, for example, we offer
information portals specifically
for individuals with disabilities working in the
federal government on our topic
page through the A-Z. And then for federal
employers on the For
Employers off of the homepage, you can find
some resources specific to
— of interest to, specifically of interest to
those who are going
through the interactive process within a federal government
agency. We offer a
perspective on the interactive process as it
relates to federal employment.
There is a full document that outlines this
process in general, and this
is just like the information that Anupa nicely
shared with everyone. It
provides some great details and some practical
tips for implementing the
interactive process as well. We also offer articles
and links to topics that
pertain to issues of importance to the federal
sector like personal assistance
services in the workplace or Schedule A,
and so these resources can
be found by topic through the resources and
federal resources available on
the AskJAN. org site. Next slide.
Brett, someone’s
typing.>>Yeah. I do
hear some background noise, if
you could make sure our panelists all mute
their lines, I’d appreciate
it. Thanks, guys.>>Thank you. I’d like
to direct you to just a
few more resources that might help you implement
reasonable accommodation
and disability inclusion best practices. The
particular use I find that
the JAN A-Z section of the AskJAN. org
site is extremely useful,
and I encourage you to find information
about accommodations by
disability, by limitation, we even have now
work-related function. But most
useful, I find the topic section. There you
will find information on a
variety of topics from medical inquiries to sample
forms that you could
use to managing performance issues, service
animals in the
workplace, implementing trial accommodations, telework.
The list goes on, and it really
is sort of a living file cabinet, basically, of topics
that we are going to
be developing over time so, I do believe that
that will be a very
useful resource to everyone who’s looking for information related
to topics and the
interactive process. Also, JAN’s Workplace Accommodation
Toolkit is a resource that
we offer that can benefit reasonable
accommodation coordinators,
disability program managers. Next slide.
The Workplace Accommodation
Toolkit is a free online living resource, and
it captures and continuously
updates best and emerging workplace
accommodation practices. There
are information drawers that are
designed with customized tools
for recruiters, hiring managers, supervisors,
accommodation consultants, and
even employees and coworkers as well.
The toolkit was developed to
offer resources to help employers emulate
best and emerging
reasonable accommodation practices, and so
information can be found
related to reasonable accommodation processes,
tracking and reporting
accommodations, data gathering practices, developing
employee resource groups,
EEOC guidance training, so it’s really full of
lots of resources that you can
take advantage of. Next slide. You’ll also find
information specific to
best and emerging practices in the
drawer for tools for
reasonable accommodation subject matter experts. There you
will find a section on
building on a strong foundation where there are
best and emerging practices.
So, for example, doing things like adopting
facilities IT access for
all and implementing universal design practices, or
focusing on diverse abilities,
making sure that you are paying attention
to skills and experience,
and prior performance, and not focusing on disability
so much, or developing
a list of preapproved accommodations that don’t
require maybe a full
assessment and interrupt your process to provide
because it’s the best practice,
and they are relatively easy to implement,
or creating a centralized
accommodation fund. These are the kinds of things
that you might see as
best practices. One more slide, and then I will finish
up. The last thing, resource, I
wanted to highlight is also included in the toolkit,
along with being available on
the AskJAN. org site through the homepage, but
these are our training
resources. JAN staff members conduct around 200
trainings and public appearances
per year, so we do stay really busy.
We keep training in mind
because training is so critically important, particularly
for supervisors and
managers, as Anupa mentioned. Most of the
in-person trainings are by
invitation, but otherwise, we do a lot of
webcasts. You will find through
the training resources that we have multimedia training
resources, there’s a microsite
set up where you can access canned [phonetic] webcasts
that are based on
a number of topics, some specific to the
federal government. You can also
access a series of high-quality videos that
JAN has produced about
best practices like negotiating reasonable
accommodations or performance
management or interviewing challenges. These can
all be found through
the toolkit and on the JAN YouTube channel
as well, which can be
accessed from the training page too. I hope that you
find that JAN can be a
useful resource for you. We are here to help
you discover practical solutions
that lead to workplace success, and so, Brett,
I will turn it back
over to you.>>Thank you very
much, Tracie. We really
appreciate that, and thanks to everybody at JAN for
all that you do. And
so, it’s my pleasure now to introduce our final
speaker, Vonda Bell. Vonda
is the Acting Director of the Office
of Agency Services and Acting
Chief Human Capital Officer for the Farm Credit
Administration. Welcome, Vonda,
the floor is yours.>>Thank you so much. It’s
awesome to be here with you
all today. Next slide please. I just wanted to quickly
talk to you all about
the importance of the relationship between HR and EEO,
and as you see the
title of the slide HR and EEO: Collaborating for
Success, and that truly is
what it’s all about. I list four ideas
here to help HR
and EEO collaborate. The first one
being, acknowledge the mutual
purpose. So, you both have the responsibility
to enforce relevant law,
and so you can acknowledge that as you work
together. EEO, they will have
a set of laws; HR will have a set of
laws, and sometimes the same set
of laws, and so you have that mutual purpose.
And then the second
point, demonstrating that mutual respect. Respecting what
each other has to do
in terms of carrying out their job. Collaborate
early and often. Collaborating
when you’re drafting policies, reasonable
accommodations policies,
other policies, even to the point where sometimes you can
have a draft and before
you start the official [inaudible] of the draft, you
may want to come to the
table and say, “Hey, let’s look at the pre-draft together.
Let’s go through some of
this together and see if there are things that
we want to change before
we actually put this in official as a policy. ”
Another way you can collaborate
early and often is when EEO is having events
with the special emphasis
programs and groups, generally that’s a very busy
time for EEO and the groups,
I think it would be great if in those instances,
HR could raise their hand and
offer to help and say, “Hey, we are willing to help
you. ” And the converse of
that is when HR is having internal recruitment,
fairs, hiring fairs, looking to
hire persons with disabilities, it would be great
if you all could work with
the EEO and say, “Hey, do you mind helping us
man a couple booths down
here at the hiring fair? We’d love to have you.”
Just making that connection
and collaborating early and often, it builds for much
better relationship between
HR and EEO, and that’s ultimately what we
should want. And then the
last thing, set aside dedicated time to meet. At
a couple of places I’ve worked,
on one, the EEO — I was the HR Director
there and then there was
an EEO director, and every first Friday, we would walk
around the building, and that
was our time to just catch up and talk about
things that were going on
for us during the upcoming months, things that
have happened during the
past month, and we really carved out that time
and stuck to that. And
it was really helpful in bridging the gap between
HR and EEO, especially
in situations where traditionally they haven’t worked
so closely together. Another
thing to do is when you are setting
aside that dedicated time to
meet, we have brown-bag sessions with EEO and
HR right here at my
current organization where we pick out the topics
together, and sometimes the
topics are HR related and sometimes they are EEO
related, and many times
they crossover. We get together, and we talk about
those things, and we talk
about them as a team, as a group, as one
organization, and I just think
that we get much better results by doing this. I just
wanted to share those tips with
you all and I hope they are helpful. I
will turn it back over
to you, Brett.>>All right. Thank
you so much, Vonda for
the information you shared, along with all of the other
panelists. It will be a great
benefit to our webinar participants. Before we open the
floor to questions, I’d like
to share some web addresses for valuable resources
that have been
shared today. You will see EARN,
JAN, ODEP, and also a link to
ODEP’s Return-to-Work-Toolkit. These could all be
very helpful for you.
Next slide please. If you would like to get in
touch with any of our presenters,
you certainly can do so. Our contact information is on
the screen there and as
well as the next slide. And remember, these
slides will be posted
to AskEARN. org, so you don’t have
to copy down all that
contact information right away. You can certainly get the
slides on our website. Now,
we are going to take some participant questions. Please
keep in mind we will
try to answer as many questions as we
can; however, due to the
sheer number of participants and the limited time, we
may not have the capacity
to answer all of them on the webinar. We will
make every effort to address
as many as we can, and we will post responses
to the website at AskEARN.
org along with the archive of today’s presentation
if we have any questions
we can’t get to. First question we have
here is for Tracie.
Tracie, what are the most common types of
reasonable accommodations in the
federal sector, and do reasonable accommodations tend to
differ between federal sector
and private sector?>>You know, I would
say that there is some
difference just merely in the frequency, I would say,
of questions we get
regarding some types of accommodations from the
federal government. For
example, we do get a lot of
questions around telework as
a reasonable accommodation and what an employer might need
to provide in terms of
equipment, things like that. We get a lot
of questions related to
service and emotional support animals in the work
environment. Questions related
to personal assistant services too with the
change in the section 503
regulations, I’m sorry, it’s Section 501 regulations
related to providing personal
assistant services. We do get a lot of
different — I wouldn’t say
that the accommodations are different so much in the
federal government, but I do
find that there is more of a focus on particular
types of accommodations in terms
of the kinds of questions that we receive.
They do generally center
around a lot of commuting, telework,
service animals, reassignment,
personal assistant services, things of
that nature. Sometimes questions
related to transferring accommodations to other
agencies, if somebody or
other departments, I think within an agency if
an individual moves into a
different part of the agency. I’d say that
the questions are a little
different in federal government from the standpoint
that, obviously, you have
different policies and procedures in the federal
government than you would
in a private sector environment. As far as
the kinds of accommodations
related to things like modified schedules and
flexibility, those are pretty
common as well, and those aren’t really different from
the private sector. But a
lot of the sorts of inquiries do kind of center
around some of those more complex
issues, I would say.>>All right. Thank you,
Tracie, very helpful. Next, I
have a question for Anupa. Anupa, there’s a
lot of emphasis on
the word “reasonable. ” Are there examples
when a request for an
accommodation has been — has not been
considered reasonable in the
federal context?>>Well, I don’t want
to give a straight up example
because I think it’s important to note that each request
is individualized, right? What
I’d rather look at is, when you are considering
whether or not to
provide a reasonable accommodation, an agency —
it’s important for agencies
to know that the agency does not have
to provide an accommodation if
it would pose an undue hardship. And that
undue hardship framework takes,
in the federal government, unlike Tracie was
mentioning the private sector,
in the federal government when you are
looking at undue hardship,
the standard is actually slightly different. In the
federal government, an agency
cannot make an argument that they’re denying
an accommodation based on
cost as an undue hardship, must [phonetic]
you consider the budget
of the agency or department as a whole. In
terms of a cost-based denial,
you have to look at the department’s budget, not
an office budget, not
a component’s budget, but the totality of funds that
are out there before denying
based on cost, and as a best practice, in terms of
how you process it, some
agencies have put in a second level of review. So,
if it’s a supervisor that
is thinking about denying an accommodation, either based
on cost, it might
be something that would be reviewed by the disability
program manager or someone
with an IT issue, within IT. Having that
level of review for
certain types of accommodations that relate to cost. The
other piece that I would
also say is the undue hardship sets out a number
of different factors to look
at, and you have to look at each and every
factor and really analyze would
this be an undue hardship before denying an
accommodation request. I think
a lot of times this comes up in the
telework context. If an agency
has a no telework policy, it could be a violation
of the Rehab Act if the
agency said, “Well, were not going to grant the
telework as a reasonable
accommodation. ” Because that is something that is a form
of — it’s a change of
the agency’s policy. So, I really, rather than give you
case examples,
I think it’s really important to look at
when it could
be appropriate to make a denial based on
cost and when
that’s — or based on an undue hardship
and then really
make that assessment on
a case-by-case
basis.>>Thank you, Anupa, I
think that was even more
helpful to hear how we should be thinking about
it, what the factors are
as opposed to giving an example. I think that
was really helpful, so thank
you. Vonda, we have a question for you. Could you
tell us a little bit
more about how FCA monitors number the number
and effectiveness of
accommodations that have been requested
or implemented?>>I’m sorry.
Can you repeat
the question?>>Sure, Vonda. How
does the FCA monitor the
number and or effectiveness of accommodations that
have been requested
or implemented?>>Sure. So, we have
a tracking system in place
to help with the monitoring, and trust me, it’s
continuous monitoring. And then
with the effectiveness, generally, the effectiveness
reveals itself in that the
number of folks that come back and let
us know whether something is
working or not working, they are not shy about
that here at FCA, and
we just don’t hear from people saying that what’s
put in place is
not working for them. On the contrary, we
often hear that things are
working very well and that some of the
solutions are very innovative and
creative, and that’s how we know that they’re
working. We are small
organization; we have 300 employees, so to give you
some context. But we monitor
it in those ways.>>Perfect. Vonda, a quick
follow-up question. Does FCA work
at all with the DoD’s computer electronic
accommodations program,
also known as CAP?>>Absolutely.>>Do you guys have
a formal partnership or how
does that work?>>Yeah. In the
past, there has been
a formal partnership in place. I’m thinking there’s still
one in place. But we
use CAP just like every other federal agency when we
need to reach out to
them to partake of the benefits of that program,
and it’s been very
helpful for us.>>Wonderful. Thank you so
much. I think we have
time here for one more. Anupa, this one came
in for you. The changes
of Section 501 have brought up a lot
of questions about personal
assistant services, PAS. Under Section 501 in
the of the ADA, employers
are not required to provide PAS as
a reasonable accommodation,
but section 1 now states agencies might
need to provide PAS as
a form of affirmative action. Could you
explain that difference
at all?>>Sure. Like I said,
it’s really important to look at
what is the definition of personal assistant services
as a form of
affirmative action. Personal assistant services are services
that relate to activities of
daily living that an individual would not be
able to perform without some
assistance. So, if we are looking at, and
I’m slightly messing up the
definition here. I recommend looking at the break.
But, when you are
looking at personal assistant services, it’s really focused
on activities of daily living,
and since Section 501, the updated regulations are
really directed to what an
agency must be doing in terms of engaging
in affirmative action for
the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement
of individuals with
disabilities. We added personal assistant services
because we found that a
number of individuals with specifically targeted
disabilities have the skills,
abilities to work, they want to work, but they
can’t be in the workplace
because of their disability because they need assistance
with some of those
activities of daily living. You can’t be at work if
you can’t use the restroom just
by how qualified you are. So, the regulation justifies
[phonetic] that an agency
must provide as a form of affirmative action,
personal assistant services. So,
the key here is that personal assistant services
is affirmative action are
for things that are related to activities
of daily living, whereas
reasonable accommodations are for the performance of the
central functions of the job.
That’s not to say that an individual who receives
personal assistant services
is affirmative action may also not be
receiving, or maybe receiving,
personal assistant as a reasonable accommodation. For
example, things that
are personal services as an accommodation are
things such as assistance
with notetaking, filing, typing, talking on the
phone. There might be various
things that are job related that are actually
an agency must provide
to those individuals. Personal assistant services
are for individuals with
targeted disabilities, and there’s a whole criteria in
terms of eligibility. But really
those services are to — well, accommodations enables
a person to perform
the essential functions of the job. Personal assistant
services enables an individual to
be at work. I hope that answers it. And
we do, EOC does have a
really great Q and A document about this on
our EOC website under
federal agencies.>>Thank you so
much. Really appreciate it,
Anupa. All right, folks, we are going to close
out here. We are approaching
the end of our time. Once again, please note
we will post to AskEARN.
org the slides and an archived version of the
webinar. Make sure you look
under our webinar archive. You will see the up
within a week. Before we
close out, I want to take a quick moment
to recap some key
takeaways. Next slide please. Looks like we have our
assessment question once again.
You can pull up these slides via our website
once they are posted. Now,
I know our polling question didn’t work earlier.
Ed, I’m going to ask
you here real quick, should we skip the polling
question or do you think this is
going to be able to function here?>>I think
we can try
again.>>Let’s give it a shot. Once
again, your question is going
to be on a scale of 1 to 5, how would you
rate your understanding
of reasonable accommodations for federal workers? Once
again, this scale, one
equals very little understanding and five
equals an extensive
understanding. Let’s take a moment and go ahead
and answer that question. We’ll
give it a second here to tabulate. I think
our polling system is still
broken, guys. Sorry about that. We will get it fixed for
our next time. Sorry about that,
but we’ll get it fixed. As I briefly mentioned
earlier, immediately following
the event, you will be asked to complete
a survey about your
experience. We strongly encourage you to please do
so in order to help
us to continue to provide substantive webinars moving
forward. We get great ideas
from all of you about the types of topics
you would like us to
address in future webinars, so it’s really important for us
if you can just take a
moment and fill out that survey. We would really
appreciate it. It’s been
a great discussion. Reasonable accommodation is a
huge issue. There are
so many things that we can go over, and
we’ll certainly touch this topic
in future webinars as well, so please stay tuned for
those. Please be sure to
visit and bookmark our website AskEARN. org. Once
again, it hosts a lot
of no-cost tools, resources, and services on recruiting,
hiring, and retaining,
and advancing employees with disabilities. We have
an entire section set up
for federal government, so there is a lot
of information that is applicable
generally and specifically to folks in this audience
when it comes to the
federal government. Please be sure to follow us on
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
You can do right on the AskEARN homepage. I would
like to thank Anupa,
Tracie, and Vonda. You have been amazing. We
greatly appreciate you taking the
time to join us today. A big thanks
to our audience too, especially
all our FEED members that are tuning in today.
We love having you in person
or on the phone for those FEED meetings, and
we will have information
coming out about our next meeting, so keep an
eye out in your inbox for
more on that. Once again, please answer the survey;
you will see it directly
following us signing off. Thanks everybody, and until
next time, this is Brett
Sheats. Have a good day.

Paul Whisler

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