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COVID-19 Accessibility Requests & Accommodations

This training is intended as a guide for supervisors and managers, though employees may find it helpful as well.  It was designed to address common questions and concerns that may arise in the COVID-19 return to work process. It also describes some internal processes that will only be in place during COVID-19.  However, it also includes general information about the ADA/504, FMLA, and Workers’ Compensation that will be helpful year-round.
 
The presentation is captioned, but a transcript of the recording is also available upon request by contacting Kathryn Lafrentz, ADA/504 Coordinator.

Returning to Work Following COVID-19: A Legal Guide for Supervisors Webinar

COVID-19 Accessibility Request FAQs

NOTE:  If you have specific concerns about returning to campus due to health or other reasons, please reach out. Faculty and staff should contact the Office for Campus Accessibility at ADAaccess@tulane.edu to request ADA Accommodations. Communications regarding potential ADA accommodations are confidential and will not be shared outside of the Office for Campus Accessibility without the employee’s consent. If your request is not based on your own physical or mental health condition but is based on other factors related to COVID-19 (e.g. childcare concerns, your age alone, or the health of a family member) please contact your HR Business Partner to make a non-ADA job modification request.

What types of accommodations can I request?

Reasonable accommodations can take many forms, from modifying the physical layout of an office space, to providing protective equipment or assistive technology, to a flexible schedule or remote work. Whether an accommodation is considered reasonable depends on several factors, including the requirements of your particular job.  If you’d like to talk about different types of accommodations before you decide whether to apply for them, you can schedule a call or Zoom meeting with Kathryn Lafrentz to discuss options.

What medical conditions would qualify as a disability in the context of COVID-19?

If you have a medical condition that places you at higher risk from COVID-19, you may be a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations at work. There is no exhaustive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities under the ADA; however, if you have an underlying medical condition that puts you at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, we recommend that you talk to Kathryn Lafrentz about the possibility of accommodations. You can be qualified for accommodations even if you have never requested them before, and if your needs change, you can discontinue or modify your accommodations at any time.

What if I have no underlying health conditions, but I have a family member that does, and I am concerned about exposing them to COVID-19?

If the medical conditions that form the basis for your request are those of family member, not your own, the request does not fall under the ADA/504.  However, there are two other avenues you could take for such requests.

The first option would be to refer you to the FMLA Coordinator, Bunnie Sylve.  You may be eligible for job-protected family medical leave as covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) based on the serious medical condition of a close family member.  FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of leave within a rolling 12-month period; FMLA leave may be taken intermittently or in block form.  If you wish to continue working (just remotely), FMLA leave may not be your preferred option.

The second option is to refer your request as a non-ADA job modification. For faculty, during the COVID-19 return to work process, the academic dean’s offices are working to process these types of requests in consultation with the HR business partner.  For staff, these requests are processed by department supervisors in consultation with the HR business partner.

What if I am worried about childcare options?

If you do not have an underlying medical condition that places you at higher risk from COVID-19, but you do have concerns related to childcare, your request would not fall under the ADA/504.  In that case, the request will be processed as a non-ADA job modification.

What if I am over the age of 65 but do not have any underlying health conditions that place me at higher risk from COVID-19?

Unfortunately, unlike the ADA/504, the federal age discrimination statute (ADEA) does not have provisions for reasonable accommodations. That means that employees who request a job modification based on age alone are not entitled to them under the law, even though they are at higher risk from COVID-19 per the CDC guidelines. That said, the university recognizes the risk posed by the virus and is trying to reduce that risk wherever possible, in some cases by providing remote work opportunities.

What is the process of requesting accommodations due to an underlying medical condition that places me at higher risk from COVID-19?

If you would like to move forward with requesting accommodations, the application has two steps: 1) fill out the Employee Reasonable Accommodations Request Form; and 2) provide documentation from your medical provider regarding your condition. 

Once we have your completed request form and medical documentation, Kathryn Lafrentz may reach out to you for more information about your job duties or other aspects of your request. For faculty, a physical presence on campus is typically considered an essential function of the job. That said, requests for reasonable accommodations (including remote work) are considered on a case-by-case basis and involve an interactive process in which we consider the facts of your individual situation.

What does my doctor’s letter need to say?

If you decide to request reasonable accommodations under the ADA/504, your request and medical documentation will be submitted directly to Kathryn Lafrentz. The medical documentation should ideally be in the form of a letter from your doctor or other medical provider (signed/dated/on letterhead) which confirms your medical condition/symptoms, gives their anticipated duration (if known), and describes the functional limitations imposed by the condition that could affect your work. If your provider is comfortable recommending accommodations that could help you at work, please ask them to include that information in the letter.

Your doctor can email the documentation directly to klafrentz@tulane.edu, or you can provide it to Kathryn Lafrentz yourself – whatever is most convenient. We will keep any medical documentation you submit in a confidential file, separate from your general HR personnel file.

Will asking for accommodations affect my ability to be promoted or have negative effects on my job? Could it affect my eligibility for any other service, teaching, or employment considerations at Tulane?

Under the ADA/504, there can be no adverse employment action resulting from a person’s choice to request accommodations or file a discrimination complaint based on a disability.
 
Apart from receiving requested accommodations, an employee with a disability should not be treated differently with regard to any aspect of employment.  The ADA strictly prohibits disability discrimination in all areas of employment, including (but not limited to) hiring, performance improvement/conduct proceedings, termination, promotion, work-related travel, and professional development.  

A person with a disability who is receiving accommodations can be terminated if they are no longer qualified for the job, or are not meeting the performance and conduct standards required of all Tulane employees.  However, those employment standards must be applied equitably across the board; a person with a disability should not be held to higher standards or subject to stricter scrutiny than non-disabled peers.

Who has access to the information that I share? Will you share this information with anyone outside of the university?

Your request and any documentation will be kept in a confidential file, separate from your general HR personnel file.

We do not share information about a person’s ADA application or medical condition outside of the university, unless that information is discoverable/subpoenaed as part of a legal proceeding.  The only other circumstance where that action would be warranted would be an emergency where the requestor told us that they posed an immediate risk of serious bodily harm to themselves or other people.

What does my supervisor/department chair need to know about my request?

We will ask for your permission before speaking to anyone else, including your supervisor/department chair, regarding your request.  Your chair should keep the fact that you are requesting accommodations (as well as the reason for the request) confidential and should not request any medical documentation from you.

Once we receive medical documentation and determine that you are ADA qualified, we will consult with your chair and academic dean about the requirements of your job and the needs of your department but will not share the medical basis for your request with them.