As a matter of nondiscrimination, contractors must make reasonable accommodation to physical and mental limitations when requested by qualified individuals with disabilities unless contractors can demonstrate that such accommodation would impose an undue hardship. In assessing undue hardship, contractors may consider factors such as financial costs and interference with the ability of other employees to do their jobs. As a matter of affirmative action, if an employee with a known disability is having significant difficulty performing his or her job and it is reasonable to conclude that the performance problem may be related to the disability, then the contractor must confidentially notify the employee of the performance problem and inquire whether it is related to the employee’s disability. If the answer is yes, the contractor must also confidentially inquire whether the employee needs a reasonable accommodation.
At the desk audit stage, the CO must review copies of reasonable accommodation policies, and documentation of any accommodation requests received and their resolution, if any.48 Here are three examples of areas in which reasonable accommodations may be necessary: (1) accommodations in the application process; (2) accommodations that enable employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the position held or desired; and (3) accommodations that enable employees with disabilities to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by employees without disabilities.
Once an individual with a disability has requested a reasonable accommodation, the employer must determine the appropriate accommodation. Sometimes the appropriate accommodation will be obvious or included in the accommodation request, e.g., a request for a sign language interpreter. When it is not, the contractor should use a problem-solving approach to determine the appropriate accommodation. This approach may include initiating an interactive process with the accommodation requester that may entail: 1) analyzing the particular job involved and determining its purpose and essential functions; (2) consulting with the individual with a disability to ascertain the precise job-related limitations imposed by the individual’s disability and how those limitations could be overcome with a reasonable accommodation; (3) identifying potential accommodations and assessing the effectiveness each would have in enabling the individual to perform the essential functions of the position; and (4) considering the preference of the individual to be accommodated, and selecting and implementing the accommodation that is most appropriate for both the employee and the employer.
Appendix A to the Section 503 regulations at 41 CFR Part 60-741, Guidelines on a Contractor’s Duty to Provide Reasonable Accommodation, provides additional information about the scope of the “undue hardship” defense and examples of reasonable accommodations, among other things. Though not required, OFCCP encourages contractors to develop and use written procedures to process requests for reasonable accommodations. Guidance on how to develop written procedures is in Appendix B to the Section 503 regulations at Part 60-741, Developing Reasonable Accommodation Procedures.
48. This information is requested in the Itemized Listing. Note that contractors are encouraged but not required to have written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodations. See 41 CFR 60-741.44(d)(2).