Questions And Answers:
The U.S. Equal Employment
Policy Guidance On Executive Order 13164:
Establishing Procedures To Facilitate
The Provision Of Reasonable Accommodation
Policy Guidance explains the provisions of Executive Order 13164,
which requires federal agencies to establish effective written procedures
for processing requests for reasonable accommodation by employees and
applicants with disabilities. The Guidance also provides background
information on the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and
sets forth instructions for implementing each of the procedural
requirements of the Executive Order.
Who is covered by the Executive
The Order applies to executive branch
agencies and their employees and applicants for employment. It does not
apply to employers or employees in the private sector.
What is reasonable accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation is a change in the
work environment or in the application process that would enable a person
with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. There are three
general categories of reasonable accommodations: (1) changes to a job
application process to permit people with disabilities to be considered
for jobs; (2) changes to enable people with disabilities to perform the
essential functions of a job; and (3) changes to give people with
disabilities equal access to the benefits and privileges of employment.
What are the legal requirements
that govern an agency's obligation to provide reasonable accommodation?
Agencies must provide reasonable
accommodation to qualified employees or applicants with disabilities
unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship on the operation
of the agency. A person with a disability is qualified for a job if s/he
can perform the essential functions of that job with or without the
For more guidance on the legal standards
governing reasonable accommodation, agencies should consult the EEOC's Enforcement
Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, on the web at www.eeoc.gov.
Why is reasonable accommodation
While many people with disabilities can
apply for and perform jobs without the need for reasonable accommodation,
workplace barriers may keep others from entering the work force and still
others from performing jobs which they could do with some form of
accommodation. These barriers may be physical obstacles (such as
inaccessible facilities or equipment), or they may be procedures or rules
(such as rules concerning when work is performed, when breaks are taken,
or how job tasks are to be done). Reasonable accommodation removes
workplace barriers for people with disabilities. It also allows agencies
to expand their pool of qualified workers.
Why are reasonable accommodation
If a person with a disability needs a
reasonable accommodation in order to do, or to apply for, his or her job,
it is essential that federal agencies handle the request in a prompt,
fair, and efficient manner. Establishing procedures in advance will assure
that individuals with disabilities understand how to approach the system
and know what to expect. Procedures will also help agency managers
understand what is expected of them.
Does the Policy Guidance explain
general standards for reasonable accommodation procedures?
Yes. While each agency will design its own
procedures, all procedures must meet the following general standards:
- The procedures must be flexible.
- The procedures must be written in plain
- The procedures must be designed to
expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
- The procedures must enable an agency to
meet its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act.
How can a person with a
disability start the reasonable accommodation process?
A person with a disability may start the
process by making an oral or written request for a reasonable
accommodation. Agencies must consider an individual's request if it is
made to any of the following: his/her supervisor; a supervisor or manager
in his/her immediate chain of command; the EEO office; any other office
designated by the agency; or, in connection with the application process,
any agency employee with whom the applicant has contact. An agency may not
require people with disabilities to use particular words in their
requests; nor may it wait to begin processing a request until a written
form is submitted.
Which agency employees should be
involved in considering an individual's request for reasonable
Agency procedures should authorize
first-line supervisors to consider and approve requests for reasonable
accommodation wherever possible. Agencies may also designate particular
offices to oversee the reasonable accommodation process and/or to provide
assistance and information to all agency employees involved in the
Are there specific steps that all
agencies must follow?
No. Each agency should design procedures
that work best for its work force. All agency procedures should, however,
require that agency decision makers talk to the individual requesting the
accommodation where the person's specific disability or limitation is
unclear; where an effective accommodation is not obvious; or where the
parties are choosing between different possible reasonable accommodations.
What is the time period for
Because the amount of time it takes to
respond to a request for reasonable accommodation will often depend on the
nature of the accommodation, the Guidance does not set specific time
lines. Time limits should, however, be as short as reasonably possible.
Where an accommodation is needed immediately -- where, for example, an
applicant needs a modification to the application process in order to
apply for a job -- the agency's procedures should also provide for
expedited processing of the request
What if an agency can't meet its
Sometimes there may be factors that an
agency could not have anticipated or avoided that will delay the
consideration or provision of a reasonable accommodation. In such
circumstances, the agency must notify the individual of the reason for the
delay and consider whether there are temporary measures that could be
taken to assist the person with a disability until a decision on the
requested accommodation can be made.
When may an agency ask for
medical information in connection with a request for reasonable
An agency is entitled to know that an
individual has a covered disability that requires a reasonable
accommodation. Therefore, the agency may ask for information about the
disability, the activities it limits, and the need for accommodation --
but only if the disability and/or need for accommodation is not obvious,
or if information already submitted by the individual is insufficient for
the agency to make these determinations. An agency may not otherwise ask
for medical information based on a person's request for a reasonable
Must an agency keep medical
Yes. The information may be disclosed to
those involved in determining whether to grant the reasonable
accommodation. Beyond those agency decision makers, however, there are
strict limitations on those to whom the information may be provided.
What if a request for reasonable
accommodation is denied?
If an agency denies a request for
reasonable accommodation, it must inform the individual in writing of the
denial and the specific reasons for it. The agency should also notify the
individual that s/he has a right to file an EEO complaint and to engage in
any informal dispute resolution procedures the agency makes available for
What if the individual wants to
challenge a denial of reasonable accommodation?
The Executive Order encourages agencies to
use voluntary, informal dispute resolution processes to resolve
disagreements resulting from the reasonable accommodation process. These
informal processes must be in addition to -- and may not modify or replace
-- the EEO complaint process.
Can the individual file an EEO
complaint under the Rehabilitation Act?
The Executive Order does not create new
rights for Executive branch employees or applicants. However, nothing in
the Executive Order limits an individual's rights under the Rehabilitation
Act. Where an individual believes that a denial of a reasonable
accommodation, or an aspect of the reasonable accommodation process, has
resulted in a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, therefore, s/he may
file an EEO complaint through the process set forth in EEOC regulations at
29 C.F.R. Part 1614. The individual must initiate the EEO complaint
process within 45 days of the date of the challenged action, whether or
not s/he is engaged in an informal dispute resolution process at the same
Does the Executive Order impose
reporting or recordkeeping requirements?
The Executive Order requires each agency to
submit its procedures, and any modifications it later makes to those
procedures, to the EEOC. The Order also requires each agency to track
information that will enable the agency to evaluate its own performance in
considering and granting requests for reasonable accommodation. The Order
does not, however, impose any specific recordkeeping requirements.