Accommodation Process for Faculty
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (commonly referred to as Section 504) is most generally applicable to religious institutions such as BYU with respect to accommodation of personnel with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities desiring to participate in BYU’s programs and activities, including employment. It also requires BYU to provide reasonable accommodations for faculty members relative to the essential functions of their job, providing such action does not place an undue hardship on the university.
The following outlines an interactive process currently used by Faculty Relations to coordinate accommodations for faculty members:
Step 1 A faculty member with a disability contacts the Office of Faculty Relations at 2-7017 to request assistance with the accommodation process and to schedule an appointment. If a faculty member contacts their chair first, the chair should refer them to Faculty Relations and should NOT initiate a conversation about a medical condition.
Step 2 The faculty member is encouraged to bring to the appointment a letter from their current health care provider that includes the disability and/or illness that addresses their current need for an accommodation. Although documentation from a current health care provider will be required before an accommodation is granted, it does not need to be completed or even started when initially meeting with Faculty Relations.
The faculty member comes to the meeting prepared to suggest reasonable accommodations that would allow them to perform the essential functions of their job. Faculty Relations is not responsible for identifying possible accommodations, because they cannot know how the specific and unique details of a faculty member’s disability or illness affects their ability to perform their work. Rather, Faculty Relations relies on the faculty member in consultation with their own health care provider to propose possible accommodations.
The request for an accommodation by a faculty member initiates the interactive process involving the faculty member, the department chair (or equivalent), and Faculty Relations, to determine whether accommodations proposed by the faculty member and their health care provider are reasonable. The chair cannot be excluded from this process because of their unique understanding of the essential functions of the job, which those from outside the department (or unit) do not possess. They also assist Faculty Relations to evaluate whether a proposed accommodation would cause an undue hardship. This input is critical, because an accommodation that is reasonable in one department context may impose an undue hardship in another department. The chair does not need to know about the medical condition to participate in this interactive process; they only need to know what specific accommodation has been requested and that Faculty Relations has determined a legitimate need exists to consider and grant the accommodation. It may take several iterations to identify a reasonable accommodation that allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job without imposing an undue hardship on the department, the college or the university. Faculty Relations grants final approval for the accommodation.
In most cases, the agreed-upon accommodation is considered time-limited, even when the disability is not temporary, or an illness is prolonged. This is to ensure that regular re-evaluations are performed to determine whether the nature of the accommodation needs to change and whether essential job functions are being performed.
Step 3 The accommodation is implemented, and re-evaluations are performed at specified time intervals. A letter summarizing the request for the accommodation, the accommodation granted, and the duration of the accommodation (without including medical information) is provided to the faculty member and the department chair.