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Division of Human Resources

Workplace Accommodations

The University of South Carolina provides reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. These resources will help you understand the process and how to submit requests. 

ADA Compliance 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else and it guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

The ADA, as amended, protects the rights of employees and job seekers with disabilities.

An individual with a disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

  • Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
  • Under the ADA, as amended, "major life activities" is expanded to include "major bodily functions." major bodily functions include, but are not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

For further information, please visit the Department of Labor Website

Under the ADA, you must be a qualified individual with a disability who is capable of performing the essential functions of a position, with or without reasonable accommodations.

  • This requirement assures that individuals will not be considered unqualified simply because of an inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions.

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

  • A person with a disability who is unable to perform the essential functions of a position, with or without reasonable accommodations, is not a “qualified” individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA.
  • Although reasonable accommodations must be provided to qualified individuals, significant modifications and/or restructuring of the essential job duties so that a position no longer resembles its purpose are generally not considered reasonable. In other words, an employer does not have to eliminate the fundamental duties of the position.

A reasonable accommodation is an accommodation that enables the employee to perform the essential functions of their position, is medically necessary, and does not create an undue hardship on the institution.

Some accommodations can be approved at the department level and others require a formal interactive process which requires coordination through the Division of Human Resources' Employee Relations Office. 

When requesting a workplace accommodation that is obvious, employees may not need to go through a formal step-by-step process.  

For example, if an employee who uses a wheelchair requests that their desk be elevated to ensure that it is above the arms of the wheelchair, the employee’s supervisor may voluntarily comply and have the desk elevated appropriately. In this case, an accommodation has been requested, identified, and provided without the need for a formal process.

When requesting a workplace accommodation that may not be obvious, an appropriate accommodation is best determined through a formal step-by-step interactive process that:

  1. Analyzes the particular job involved and determines its purpose and essential functions;
  2. Consults 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. Identifies potential accommodations and assesses the effectiveness each would have in enabling the individual to perform the essential functions of the position; and
  4. Considers the preference of the individual to be accommodated and selects and implements the accommodation that is most appropriate for both the employee and the employer.

To initiate the interactive process, employees should submit a completed accommodation request form [pdf] along with a letter from their health care provider [pdf] to the Division of Human Resources' Employee Relations Office at uscer@mailbox.sc.edu. If a supervisor and/or HR contact receives this documentation from an employee, please send it to the Employee Relations Office. 

Once an accommodation is approved, employees will be provided an official letter of approval. 

 

The following forms, templates and other resources are provided to help employees, supervisors and HR Contacts process requests for workplace accommodations.

If you would like to request new workplace accommodations, or if you need to renew or revise a previously approved accommodations request, please complete the forms listed below:

If you already have an existing, approved arrangement for workplace accommodations in place, no additional action is necessary unless changes are needed to your accommodations request, or the terms of the approval of your request have ended.  

The following template can be used for informal or formal requests for workplace accommodations. For formal requests, please wait to send the approval letter until you receive confirmation from the Employee Relations Office. 

If you are considering the denial of a workplace accommodation, please contact the Employee Relations Office by emailing uscer@mailbox.sc.edu or calling 803-777-3821.

No. You can send your request for workplace accommodations directly to the Division of Human Resources' Employee Relations Office. Please contact our office by emailing uscer@mailbox.sc.edu or calling 803-777-3821.

The Employee Relations Office does not share your confidential health condition/status with outside parties. We only discuss requested or proposed accommodations with appropriate representatives from your department/division, such as your supervisor or HR Contact. The purpose of these discussions is to determine whether requested or proposed accommodations can be provided to allow you to perform the essential functions of your position without creating an undue hardship on your department/division or the university.

Not necessarily. Employers must offer effective accommodations, which may or may not be the employee’s first choice or preference for an accommodation.

The appropriateness of an accommodation must be analyzed in its specific context through an interactive process between the employer and the employee.

If you have questions or concerns regarding an accommodation that has or has not been provided to you, please contact the Employee Relations Office by emailing uscer@mailbox.sc.edu or calling 803-777-3821.

The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities.

If you have questions or concerns regarding an accommodation that has or has not been provided to you, please contact the Employee Relations Office by emailing uscer@mailbox.sc.edu or calling 803-777-3821.

If you feel that you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination or harassment related to a disability, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (by calling 803-777-3854 or emailing eop@mailbox.sc.edu. You may also file a complaint online.

Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities." Persons discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with a disabled individual are also protected. The ADA defines an "individual with a disability" as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or bodily functions, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

The first part of the definition makes clear that the ADA applies to persons who have substantial, as distinct from minor impairments, and that these must be impairments that limit major life activities or bodily functions. Major life activities include seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working. Major bodily functions include, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. An individual with epilepsy, paralysis, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, or a learning disability would be covered, but an individual with a minor, non-chronic condition of short duration, such as a sprain, infection, or broken limb, generally would not be covered.

The second part of the definition allows for protections, for example, for a person with a history of cancer that is currently in remission or a person with a history of mental illness.

The third part of the definition protects individuals who are regarded and treated as though they have a substantially limiting disability, even though they may not have such an impairment. For example, this provision would protect a severely disfigured qualified individual from being denied employment because an employer feared the "negative reactions" of others.

A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that he or she holds or seeks, and who can perform the "essential functions" of the position with or without reasonable accommodations.

Requiring the ability to perform "essential" functions assures that an individual will not be considered unqualified simply because of an inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions.

If the individual is qualified to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation.

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or an adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.

Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of non-disabled employees.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by an individual with a disability;
  • Restructuring a job;
  • Modifying work schedules;
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment;
  • Appropriately modifying documents, training, or other programs, etc.

Employers are not required to lower quality or quantity standards in order to make an accommodation, nor are they obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.

The decision as to the appropriate accommodation for a specific individual must be based on the facts of each case. In selecting the reasonable accommodation to be provided, the principal test is that of effectiveness, i.e., whether the accommodation will enable the person with a disability to do the job in question.

No. An employer is required to accommodate only a "known" disability of a qualified applicant or employee.

The requirement generally will be triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who frequently can suggest an appropriate accommodation.

Accommodations must be made on an individual basis because the nature and extent of a disabling condition and the requirements of the job will vary in each case.

If the individual does not request an accommodation, the employer is not obligated to provide one. If a disabled person requests, but cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, the employer and the individual should work together through an interactive process to identify one.

There are also many public and private resources that can provide assistance without cost.

Contact the Employee Relations Office at uscer@mailbox.sc.edu or 803-777-3821 for more information. 

The disabled individual requiring the accommodation must be otherwise qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer. In addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business.

"Undue hardship" is defined as "an action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation.

Yes. Individuals who currently engage in the illegal use of drugs are specifically excluded from the definition of a "qualified individual with a disability" protected by the ADA when an action is taken on the basis of their drug use.

Yes. A test for illegal drugs is not considered a medical examination under the ADA; therefore, employers may conduct such testing of applicants or employees and make employment decisions based on the results. The ADA does not encourage, prohibit, or authorize drug tests.



 


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