On Monday, October 19, 2015, the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contracting Compliance Programs) published on its website another tool for individuals with disabilities, a pocket card titled “Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation.” The stated intention of the card is to “help applicants, employees and other interested parties understand the process for requesting a reasonable accommodation.” The OFCCP explains that the card fulfills this purpose by using simple language and answering these four common questions about seeking a reasonable accommodation:
- What is a reasonable accommodation?
- How do I request a reasonable accommodation?
- What do I need to tell my employer?
- What happens after the request is made?
The last page of the card also provides the contact information for the OFCCP and instructs employees or applicants to contact the Department if they believe they have experienced discrimination.
From the employer perspective, it is questionable whether the card will fulfill its intended purpose. While some information in the card is helpful, some crucially important information is missing.
What do we like about the card?
- It informs employees that they need to provide medical information to show they have a disability. This is important because often employees feel a request for medical information is an invasion of privacy, and even health care providers will sometimes tell employees that they do not need to provide this information to their employers.
- With limited exceptions, most of the sample accommodations are fairly straight-forward for employers to provide.
- It explains that a reasonable accommodation is not one size fits all, and it is dependent upon the job type and nature of the disability.
- It explains that the accommodation cannot be unduly costly or disruptive to the employer.
- It explains that the employer has the ability to select among reasonable accommodation options as long as the one selected meets the individual’s needs.
What do we dislike about the card?
- The card reminds employees that they do not have to use any special words to request an accommodation. While this is true, if the purpose of the card is to assist employees in requesting and obtaining a reasonable accommodation, it would be more beneficial to inform the employee that being explicit is the clearest way to put the employer on notice.
- It fails to indicate that in addition to requesting medical information regarding the individual’s disability, the employer can request information substantiating the need for a requested reasonable accommodation and/or information on alternative options.
- It fails to mention the interactive process, which is mandatory on the part of the employee as well as the employer. Employers should keep a confidential log tracking requests for reasonable accommodation to include the interactive process or lack of the same.
- One page of the small pocket card reminds employees that they can file a complaint if they feel that their employer has discriminated against them. While all employers recognize this avenue exists for their employees, if the primary intent of the card is to have employers and employees working together to obtain reasonable accommodations, why does the reminder of this option occupy an entire page?
While opinions may differ as to the usefulness of the card, it is not clear where the OFCCP will make the card accessible so as to fulfill its intended purpose. Although the announcement only states that the OFCCP may be contacted for copies, the OFCCP may send cards to job centers and other disability-related organizations for distribution.
Similar to the OFCCP’s publishing of the disability video, employers are not required to provide this reasonable accommodation card to their employees or applicants for employment. Employers will not likely see a benefit to providing this card in addition to the reasonable accommodation and non-discrimination policies and other materials they already have in place.