Whether, When, and What to Disclose
Often, faculty and staff are not sure of when, how, or whether they must disclose that they have a disability. Sometimes, they ask if they have to tell Human Resources or their supervisor or manager about their condition “just to have it on record.” If you are a faculty or staff member with a disability, it is entirely up to you whether or when you disclose to your supervisor, manager, or HR representative (collectively referred to here the “university”).
However, if you wish to request a reasonable accommodation, then you will need to provide enough information to the university let them know about your disability, how it impacts your ability to do your work, and what accommodations might be effective. Also, as part of the process for requesting accommodations, the university may ask you to provide medical documentation that shares information about your condition.
Like the decision to disclose a disability, the decision to request an accommodation is entirely up to you. Faculty and staff are never required or forced to request or accept accommodations. That being said, if you are concerned that your disability may impact your work performance, you are encouraged to request accommodations before you experience work performance problems that could result discipline or place your job in jeopardy.
To request an accommodation, you will need to tell the university that you have a disability and wish to request accommodations (see below for who to contact on your campus). Your request need not be in writing and does not need to include any “magic words;” you just need to be reasonably clear in communicating your request. It may be helpful to provide your employer with a written communication containing the following information in order to avoid any misunderstandings or lack of clarity: (1) your name, (2) a statement that you are an individual with a disability, (3) a statement that you wish to request a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, and (4) any accommodation ideas that you would like to explore. You can also use the Request for Accommodation Form but are not required to. Please note that you do not need to identify your disability or any other private medical information during this initial communication if you do not want to; however, you may be asked to provide medical documentation at a later time in the process which will identify your medical condition. This is often necessary to properly assess reasonable accommodation options.
If you wish to request a reasonable accommodation from the University, you should make your request to following:
- For Ann Arbor faculty and staff: You may contact your supervisor, manager, or HR representative.
- For Michigan Medicine faculty and staff: You may call the Solution Center at (734) 647-5538.
- For Dearborn faculty and staff: Email HumanResourcesDearborn@umich.edu or call (323) 593-5190.
- For Flint faculty and staff: Email Suzi Bye, Benefits Coordinator, or call (810) 766-6658.
- If you have other questions about disclosing or requesting accommodations, call the Office for Institutional Equity at (734) 763-0235.
When you request an accommodation or submit medical documentation to the university, this information is kept private and confidential. Typically, any medical documentation will be kept in a locked file and the information will be kept separate from your personnel record. Also, the university will refrain from sharing information about your medical condition or accommodations; however, there may be limited instances when information sharing is appropriate. This will be done on a “need-to-know” basis. Some examples include:
- Information about your disability or accommodations may be made available to administrators who need to know the information in order to assess the reasonableness of the accommodation requested or to provide the accommodation;
- Supervisors and managers may be informed about necessary restrictions on work or duties and necessary accommodations;
- First aid and safety personnel may be informed, when appropriate, if you might require emergency treatment or if any specific procedures are needed in the case of fire or other evacuations.
This does not prevent you from self-disclosing information about your disability or accommodations if you so desire.
The university will engage in the interactive process with you in order to identify any reasonable accommodations that may be provided.
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 decline accommodations, it is important to understand the nuances of that decision. 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.
Also, if the university offers a reasonable and effective accommodation, but you decline it, the University is not then obligated to offer you a different reasonable, effective accommodation or your preferred accommodation.
Often there is a lot of flexibility with the interactive process. Sometimes it is necessary to try out an accommodation and make modifications if the accommodation begins to impose an undue burden or it is not as effective as was anticipated. Similarly, you may be asked to try a reasonable accommodation even if it is not the accommodation you prefer. In these circumstances, if you try an accommodation and, after a good faith effort, it turns out it is not effective, you are encouraged to approach the university and express your concern about the effectiveness of the accommodation. From there, you and the university can re-engage in the interactive process in order to identify modifications or alternate accommodations. In this process, you may be asked to provide specific information as to why a particular accommodation is not effective. This is necessary so that you and the university can work toward finding effective alternatives.
Requesting New or Different Accommodations
You might already have a reasonable and effective accommodation that has been working well, but then something changes and the accommodation isn’t as effective any longer. The change could be to your job duties, your condition, or other factors.
If this happens, it is vital that you let the university know that a modification or new accommodation is needed. In these situations, the university and you will re-engage in the interactive process to discuss what has changed, evaluate potential accommodations, and assess what reasonable accommodations may be provided.
Still have questions or want to learn more about requesting accommodations?
You can schedule a meeting to ask questions and learn more. Email the Office for Institutional Equity, call OIE at (734) 763-0235, or speak to the appropriate contact for your campus or division.
If you would like to consult with a confidential resource, please see the list of confidential and non-confidential resources.