Any request for a reasonable accommodations from a university faculty or staff member is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The faculty or staff member and their supervisor, manager, and/or Human Resources (HR) representative (collectively, “university”) must engage in the “interactive process” in order to determine what, if any, accommodations will be provided to the employee. Information in this toolkit provides clarification and guidance on the different aspects of the interactive process.
Under the ADA and other laws, the university will provide reasonable accommodation(s) to employees with known disabilities, if an accommodation is needed to enable them to perform their essential job duties. In order for a faculty member, staff member, or applicant to receive accommodations, they must notify the university and engage in the interactive process.
You can schedule a meeting to ask questions and learn more. Email the ADA Coordinator or call the Office for Institutional Equity (734) 763-0235 or the appropriate contact for your campus or division.
What is an Accommodation?
An accommodation is any modification to a job, the workplace, or other employment elements (e.g., work tools, benefits, etc.) that enables an faculty or staff member to have equal access to the benefits of employment at the University. Here are some examples of potential accommodations:
- Providing equipment to perform certain tasks;
- Modifying an employee’s workstation or work location;
- Providing adaptive technology to allow access to digital information;
- Modifying supervisory style or communication methods;
- Granting leave; or
- Allowing for a flexible work schedule.
How do I request an accommodation or disclose my disability?
Faculty or staff who need reasonable accommodations for a disability are responsible for requesting such accommodations from the university. Faculty and staff members need not use any specific language or submit the request in writing so long as they provide sufficient information to the university indicating a disability-related accommodation is being requested.
In order to request an accommodation, faculty and staff may contact their supervisor, manager, or HR representative to make the request.
Faculty and staff may use the Request for Accommodations Form to assist with their request for an accommodation, but it is not required.
- Ann Arbor Campus faculty and staff – Contact your supervisor, manager, or HR representative to initiate the interactive process.
- Michigan Medicine faculty and staff – Call the Solution Center at (734) 647-5538 to initiate the interactive process.
- Dearborn faculty and staff – Email Dearborn’s Human Resources at or call (323) 593-5190 to initiate the interactive process.
- Flint faculty and staff – Email Flint’s Benefits Coordinator, Suzi Bye, or call (810) 766-6658, to initiate the interactive process.
Clarifying Barriers and Medical Support
Upon receiving a request for accommodations, the university is encouraged to promptly engage in the interactive process with the requesting faculty or staff member.
One of the primary steps in this process is communicating with the faculty/staff member to understand any barriers they may be experiencing (such as, issues with the work environment, how the work is done, or specific tasks that are expected of the employee), as well as identifying potential accommodations or accommodation alternatives that may be effective to address the barriers described.
In addition to discussing any barriers or accommodation suggestions, faculty and staff may be asked to provide medical documentation that provides sufficient support for: (1) the disability, (2) any restrictions the employee may have as a result of the disability, and (3) any accommodation suggestions the healthcare provider may have. Faculty and staff may use the Request for Medical Support Form included on this website.
If the faculty or staff member is asked to provide medical documentation, this documentation can be provided directly to their supervisor, manager, or HR representative. Any medical documentation received will be kept in a locked file that is separate from the faculty or staff member’s personnel records.
In addition, if a faculty or staff member goes on leave for more than ten days, then the employee will be eligible to open a claim with Work Connections. Work Connections provides assistance through faculty and staff recovery from conditions that result in leave and helps facilitate their return to work. Through this process, Work Connections can collect the faculty or staff member’s medical documentation and will communicate only what their supervisor/manager/HR representative needs to know in order to begin the interactive process and explore possible accommodations.
Determining What Accommodations Should be Provided
The university is responsible for providing reasonable accommodations. If a particular accommodation is considered unreasonable, the accommodation will not be provided and an alternative accommodation may be considered.
In addition, the University may explore alternate accommodations with faculty and staff. These accommodations may be different than the accommodations suggested or preferred by the faculty or staff member; however, such alternatives may be offered so long as they are effective.
Once an accommodation has been provided, it is important to check in and see how the accommodation is working. Faculty and staff are encouraged to let their supervisor, manager, or HR representative know if there are any problems with the accommodation.
Sometimes the effects of a disability change, there are new limitations as a result of the disability, or the accommodation is just not as effective as anticipated. In these cases, the interactive process needs to be re-engaged to determine if there is an effective reasonable accommodation to address the faculty or staff member’s current concerns.
If the university offers you accommodations, you are not obligated or required to accept them. It is your right to decline any offered accommodations.
If you were offered reasonable and effective accommodations intended to enable you to perform your job duties and you decline those accommodations, you are still responsible for your work performance and conduct. If your work performance or conduct declines or is not satisfactory, the University may address the issue through performance evaluations, discipline, and other avenues as it would with any other faculty or staff member in that situation.
If it is determined that an accommodation is not reasonable, then the University may deny the request for a specific accommodation. In the event that a specific accommodation request is denied, the university will try to continue working with the faculty or staff member to identify any potential alternative reasonable accommodations.
The following are situations when an accommodation may be considered unreasonable and would not need to be provided by the university:
If an accommodation would pose an “undue hardship” on the university, then it need not be provided. Undue hardship means that an accommodation would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial, disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the department or unit. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether an accommodation would pose an undue hardship are: the cost of the accommodation; the unit’s overall size, type, and location; the number of employees in the unit; any impact the accommodation will have on other employees or customers; and the nature and structure of the unit’s operation.
If a particular accommodation would pose an undue hardship, the university will try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship.
Modifying or Waiving Essential Functions of a Job
Under the ADA, it is typically not considered a reasonable accommodation for the university to modify, waive, or transfer essential functions of a faculty or staff member’s job. As mentioned above, essential functions are those duties that are critical to the position, such that removing one of those functions would result in a fundamental alteration to the job. For example, it may be considered an essential function of a bus driver’s position to safely and effectively operate a bus to transport customers.
Marginal functions, on the other hand, are not as critical to the job. Unlike essential functions, it may be considered a reasonable accommodation to modify, waive, or transfer marginal functions.
Direct Threat to Health and Safety
The university may refuse to provide an accommodation or return a faculty or staff member to their position if doing so poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the faculty or staff member or others and there is no reasonable accommodation that would reduce the risk of harm.
In assessing this risk, the university make individualized, case-specific judgments based on reliable medical or other objective evidence.