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Workplace Accommodations (ADA) Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a reasonable workplace accommodation?

A: The term “reasonable accommodation” is most often used to reference a workplace accommodation made under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A workplace accommodation is a workplace modification an employer makes in an effort to support an individual with a disability so they can apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, and enjoy the job benefits.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: What is the accommodation process?

A: When the District receives a request for workplace accommodations, the ADA Coordinator, or confidential designee, will engage the employee in an “interactive process” to determine if their health condition and job responsibilities warrant a need for reasonable workplace accommodations and if so, identify possible accommodations.

The interactive process’s goal is to support employee efforts to safely and successfully perform the essential functions of their roles.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: How do I know if I am eligible for workplace accommodations?

A: To be eligible for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you must have a condition that meets the ADA’s definition of a disability.

As defined by the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or is an employee who has a history or record of such an impairment or is an employee who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

If an employee’s health condition does not qualify as a disability, the District may consider appropriate flexibilities to support staff efforts in the workplace.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: I don’t have a disability, but I am in a high-risk category. Does this make me eligible for workplace accommodations?

A: Maybe.  COVID-19 is a new disease that healthcare providers are continuously learning about. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified several underlying health conditions known to or might contribute to serious health complications associated with the coronavirus.  Depending on individual circumstances,  a higher risk health condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities may also qualify as a disability during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: I am over 65. Do I automatically qualify for ADA accommodations?

A: No, not automatically. Although the CDC says the risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 increases with age, age is not a protected category under the ADA. The CDC recently amended its guidance regarding age.  “As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.”

Generally, an employee will not qualify to receive accommodations solely based on age. All employees interested in exploring workplace accommodations need to engage in the interactive process with the District to determine if their health condition and job responsibilities would warrant a need for accommodation.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: I am pregnant. Do I qualify for ADA accommodations?

A: Maybe.  Based on available information, pregnant people may be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people.  Generally, pregnancy alone does not entitle an employee to workplace accommodations.  However, some pregnancy-related conditions could be considered a “disability” under the ADA.  If a pregnancy-related condition does qualify as a disability, the District will engage in the reasonable accommodation process.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: I am a caregiver or live with someone with a disability and/or is in a higher risk category. Does this make me eligible for workplace accommodations?

A: Caregivers of individuals with disabilities or employees who have high-risk individuals in their households are not entitled to workplace accommodations under the federal ADA.  Employees in this situation may be entitled to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or the Oregon Family Medical Leave Act (OFLA).

Although employees are not entitled to workplace accommodations based on the health status of a member of their household, the District is willing to consider flexibilities that support a successful return to the workplace.

Published: January 3, 2021

Q: If I’m willing to telework, why is unpaid leave offered as an accommodation?

A: In spring 2020, Governor Brown’s executive orders related to the emergency school closure suspended in-person instruction, mandated school districts to create teleworking assignments to the greatest extent possible, and required school districts to keep staff in paid status.

The most recent executive, order 20-29, mandates school districts to resume in-person instruction as soon as it is determined to be safe.  As such, our instructional program is designed to facilitate face-to-face instruction within the safety parameters identified by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

The majority of our positions provide in-person instruction, interactions, supports, and/or supervision to students or programs that support students, families, and our community.  During the school closure, some staff members were able to perform the majority of their essential functions remotely, but not some of the primary ones.  By the nature of the services we provide, most of our positions require physical presence to perform essential functions of the role.   If students are on campus, we need staff on campus.

Unfortunately, we cannot add, create, or design positions based on individual employee medical needs.  Although the option of unpaid leave may not feel like an accommodation, it does allow for a continued relationship during a time when, due to a medical need, an employee is unable to perform the services needed by the employer during a defined period of time.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: Does my leave have to be unpaid?

A: It depends.  If a healthcare provider determines you are unable to return to work due to a serious health condition, you may be eligible to use paid leave in you qualify for leave in accordance with the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or Oregon Family Medical Leave Act (OFLA).

Published: January 3, 2021

Q: If an employee is entitled to workplace accommodations under the ADA, will they have approval to telework until a vaccine is available?

A: Not necessarily. Dependent on the employee’s role, associated responsibilities, the District’s instructional/support services model, etc., telework is not appropriate for some essential functions. For example, if an essential function of the employee’s role is to support, assess, supervise, and/or interact with students, colleagues, families, or others, physical presence may be required; therefore, telework may not be appropriate.

Through the interactive process, the District and the employee may explore several accommodation options, including telework. The District may offer alternative suggestions for reasonable accommodations requests.  The District may also discuss the accommodation requests appropriateness and/or effectiveness.  Although the employee’s accommodation preference will be considered, under ADA, the employer may make the final decision regarding accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is effective.

Published: August 20, 2020

Q: If telework is not a viable option, what are other potential accommodations?

A: Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  1. Modified/adjusted work schedules
  2. Some limited changes to working conditions
  3. Leave
  4. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE), i.e. goggles, hair coverings, gloves, etc.
  5. Alternative protective gear (such as non-latex gloves to employees with latex allergies)
  6. Use of shower after work and/or access to onsite laundry machines
  7. Plastic apron
  8. Possible reassignment

Published: August 20, 2020