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NOAA Workforce Management Office

Serving NOAA's Most Valuable Asset - People

Reasonable Accommodation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the DAO 215-10?
The DAO 215 10 is the Order which establishes Department of Commerce policies for providing reasonable accommodation on the basis of disability to qualified individuals who are employees or applicants for employment. It also designates responsibilities and describes procedures for submitting and responding to requests for reasonable accommodation.

What is the definition of disability?
The ADA/Rehabilitation Act definition of "disability" as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), has a three-part definition. An individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADAAA also states that major life activities include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

What is a reasonable accommodation?
The term reasonable accommodation means:

  1. Modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires; or
  2. Modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable an individual with a disability who is qualified to perform the essential functions of that position; or
  3. Modifications or adjustments that enable an agency's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.

What are major life activities?
They are basic activities that most people in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty. The ADAAA provides a non-exhaustive list of examples of major life activities. Many are drawn from the 1991 ADA regulation and subsequent EEOC guidance's, or from ADA and Rehabilitation Act court cases. Examples of major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.

What is an undue hardship?
An undue hardship means that a specific accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense. This determination, is made on a case-by-case basis, considers factors such as; the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the impact on operations of the agency.

What are mitigating Measures?
Mitigating measures are medications and assistive devices that an individual uses to eliminate or reduce the effects of a functional impairment caused by a disability.

What are essential job functions?
Essential functions of a job are the occupational duties that are fundamental to the position to the extent that the individual could not do the job without being able to perform them.

Procedures for Submitting Requests:

How do I request a reasonable accommodation?
The process begins as soon as the request for a change or the identification of a barrier is made from an employee with a disability. The request may be orally or in writing. Employees may request the accommodation through: a supervisor another supervisor or manager in his/her immediate chain of command, his/her Office or Division Director, or the Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator (RAC).

Employees who requested the accommodation orally or by another mode of communication, are asked to complete the Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form CD-575, Part A: "Confirmation of Request" along with medical documentation (if the disability is not obvious) and submit it to the RAC.

May someone other than the individual with a disability request a reasonable accommodation on behalf of the individual?
Yes, a family member, friend, health professional or other representative on the individual's behalf with the individual's consent. Whenever possible the Department will confirm the request with the person with the disability.


Do I have to submit medical documentation?
You don't have to submit medical documentation if you have a disability and need for accommodation that are obvious and/or if the agency already has your medical information on file. However, when a disability and/or need for reasonable accommodation are not obvious or already on file, the agency has the right to request relevant documentation about the disability.

Why do I need to submit medical information?
Medical information may be necessary in some cases in order to evaluate whether a specific disability is covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

What medical documentation should I submit?
Medical documentation should include and be sufficient if it:

  1. Describes the impairment; the nature, severity, and duration of the impairment.
  2. Describes the activity or activities that the impairment limits and the extent to which the impairment limits the employee's ability to perform the activity or activities.
  3. Describes the accommodation(s) needed; and whether the use of a mitigating measure eliminates the need for a reasonable accommodation.

What is considered insufficient medical documentation?
Documentation is insufficient if it does specify the existence of an ADA disability and explain the need for reasonable accommodation.

Documentation also might be insufficient if:

  1. The health care professional does not have the expertise to give an opinion about the employee's medical condition and the limitations imposed by it.
  2. The information does not specify the functional limitations due to the disability.
  3. Other factors indicated that the information provided is not credible or is fraudulent.

If an employee provides insufficient documentation, an employer does not have to provide reasonable accommodation until sufficient documentation is provided.

Can my employer request medical regarding my genetic information?
No. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employers and other entities covered by GINA Title II from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual or family member of the individual, except as specifically allowed by this law. To comply with this law, you are asked not provide any genetic information/

Who will see my medical documentation?
The RAC may disclose medical documentation to Department officials who have an official need to know, including but not limited to Department medical consultants, officials in the Office of the Inspector General, Office of the General Counsel, and the Office of Occupation Safety and Health, and Office of Security.

Granting the Reasonable Accommodation Request:

Does the agency have to grant me the accommodation I requested?
No. The agency is required to provide an effective accommodation, not necessarily the accommodation desired by the employee or applicant.

Do I have to accept the accommodation provided to me by my agency?
No. However, if an individual rejects a reasonable accommodation, aid, service, opportunity or benefit that is necessary to enable the individual to perform the essential functions of the position held or desired, and cannot, as a result of that rejection, perform the essential functions of the position, the individual will not be considered qualified.

When must a reasonable accommodation be granted?
If an employee needs a reasonable accommodation in order to gain access to, training, services (ex. cafeterias, auditoriums, and transportation), parties or other social functions, the employer must provide the accommodation unless it can show undue hardship.

Denial of the Reasonable Accommodation Request:

Can a reasonable accommodation be denied?
Yes, a request for reasonable accommodation can be denied if the individual requesting the accommodation is not an "individual with a disability" or if providing the requested accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the agency.

An employer cannot claim undue hardship based on employees (or customers) fears or prejudices toward the individual's disability. Nor can undue hardship be based on the fact that provision of reasonable accommodation might have a negative impact on the morale of other employees. Employers, however, may be able to show undue hardship where provision of reasonable accommodation would be unduly disruptive to other employee's ability to work.

Can I get a new supervisor as a reasonable accommodation?
The ADA/Rehabilitation Act does not require the Agency to change an employee's supervisor as a reasonable accommodation.

Reconsideration of a Denial of Reasonable Accommodation:

My request was denied, can I appeal the decision?
Yes. An employee may, within 30 business days, appeal the decision. This appeal for reconsideration should be submitted in writing to the employee's immediate supervisor or to a supervisor within the employee's chain of command, and must include a copy of the decision issued to the employee and any additional information or arguments the employee wishes to submit.

What can I do if my accommodation request was denied and I feel discriminated against or if I disagree with the agency's determination of my eligibility to receive a reasonable accommodation?
The notice of denial to the requestor shall include specific reasons for the denial, such as the reason a requested accommodation would not be effective or why it would result in undue hardship. Other reasons for denial may include: inadequacy of medical documentation to establish that the requestor is an "individual with a disability"; the requested accommodation requiring the removal of an essential function; or the requested accommodation requiring the lowering of a performance or production standard.

If the deciding official has denied a specific requested accommodation, but offered an alternative which the requestor rejected, the denial notice must explain both the reasons for the denial of the requested accommodation and the reasons the deciding official believes the alternative accommodation would be effective. The denial notice must also inform the individual that he/she has the right to seek redress in an appropriate forum, which depending on the nature of the action, may include Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process, Merit System Protection Board process, or a negotiated grievance procedure.


Can I ask for a reassignment as a reasonable accommodation?
Yes. Reassignment is another form of reasonable accommodation that is provided to an employee who, because of a disability, can no longer perform the essential functions of his/her current position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

Do I have to be qualified for a new position?
An employee must be "qualified" for the new position. An employee is "qualified" for a position if s/he: (1) satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position, and (2) can perform the essential functions of the new position, with or without reasonable accommodation. The employee does not need to be the best qualified individual for the position in order to obtain it as a reassignment.

There is no obligation for the Department to assist the employee to become qualified. Thus, the Department does not have to provide training so that the employee acquires necessary skills to take a job.

Can I be reassigned to any position?
No. The position must be "Vacant" and is available when the employee asks for reasonable accommodation, or that the Department knows that it will become available within a reasonable amount of time. A "reasonable amount of time" should be determined on a case-by-case basis considering relevant facts, such as whether the employer, based on experience, can anticipate that an appropriate position will become vacant within a short period of time. A position is considered vacant even if an employer has posted a notice or announcement seeking applications for that position. The employer does not have to bump an employee from a job in order to create a vacancy; nor does it have to create a new position.

The Department is not required to give an employee a promotion through a reasonable accommodation reassignment. Thus, an employee must compete for any vacant position that would constitute a promotion.

Confidentiality Requirements:

Is my accommodation request and medical documentation confidential?
Yes. Under the Rehabilitation Act and Privacy Act, all medical documentation and other information regarding the reasonable accommodation process must be kept confidential and only disclosed on a strict need-to-know basis. This means that all medical information including information about functional limitations and reasonable accommodation, obtained in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation must be kept secure in files separate from the individual's Official Personnel File.

Back to: Reasonable Accommodation Program

Page last edited: May 10, 2013

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