ADA Reasonable Accommodation Leave and Frequently Asked Questions

While GW expects most designated employees to return to campus, we recognize that some people are experiencing circumstances that may make coming to campus difficult or inadvisable. Depending on the circumstances underlying an employee’s request for a modification of their return-to-work circumstances, GW provides several avenues.  Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) reasonable accommodations are two forms of job-protected leave the university provides consistent with applicable federal, state, and local laws. 

 

When to consider FMLA:

  • You may use FMLA leave for your own personal qualifying health condition or to care for a family member experiencing a qualifying health condition.
  • The Benefits department oversees FMLA in addition to other forms of time off leave, including pandemic time off, sick and annual time off.  Please contact [email protected] or 571-553-8382 for assistance. (Employees may also work with their departments for unpaid personal time off).

 

When to consider an ADA reasonable accommodation:

  • If you do not qualify for FMLA or if you seek a workplace accommodation other than leave to enable you to continue performing your work duties, you may apply for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA (American with Disabilities Act, as amended).
  • Please note, ADA reasonable accommodations are available only for your own personal health, and not for the care of another person.
  • The Office of EEO & Employee Relations (EEO/ER) oversees ADA reasonable accommodations for faculty and staff. Please contact [email protected] or 202-994-9656. The Office of Disability Support Services handles student accommodations. Please contact at [email protected] or 202-994-8250. However, students who are also staff members working in a non-work study job, should request workplace accommodations through the EEO/ER Office

Process Steps for Submitting An ADA Reasonable Accommodation Request during COVID-19

 

  • Staff members should complete the Reasonable Request Accommodation form.  

 

  • Appropriate medical documentation will be required to confirm the underlying medical condition. However, medical documentation will not be required to be current if it is a chronic condition (i.e. no new medical appointment will be necessary). The completed form should be submitted directly to the EEO & Employee Relations Office at [email protected] or 202-994-9658.

 

  • For faculty members that require an accommodation to return to work, the following guidance was issued from the President and the Provost on June 11, 2020. Faculty members who wish to teach remotely should make a request by completing the attached Expedited Review Form (PDF). No medical documentation is necessary for this initial step. The completed form should be submitted directly to the Office for Faculty Affairs at [email protected]. Should this process not meet the faculty member’s needs for an accommodation, the faculty member is then encouraged to contact EEO/ER to participate in the ADA reasonable accommodation process.

 

  • Upon receipt of the reasonable accommodation request form, an initial assessment will be made to determine whether your request to continue teleworking will create an undue hardship on the department’s operations. If it is determined that there is no undue hardship, the request will be granted, even if reasonable accommodations/alternatives may be available that would allow you to safely work on campus.

 

  • If a determination is made that a telework arrangement poses an undue hardship, the EEO/ER Office will engage in the interactive process with you to identify possible reasonable accommodations that will not result in an undue hardship to the department's operations. These may include accommodations that would allow you to return to campus and/or take a period of leave.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

  1. If I am a member of the faculty, how should I apply for an ADA reasonable accommodation?
  1. For faculty members that require an accommodation to return to work, the following guidance was issued from the President and the Provost on June 11, 2020. Faculty members who wish to teach remotely should make a request by completing the attached Expedited Review Form (PDF). No medical documentation is necessary for this initial step. The completed form should be submitted directly to the Office for Faculty Affairs at [email protected]. Should this process not meet the faculty member’s needs for an accommodation, the faculty member is then encouraged to contact EEO/ER to participate in the ADA reasonable accommodation process.

 

  1. If I am in a high-risk category as defined by CDC, am I required to return to work?
    1. Depending on your condition, you may be eligible for an ADA reasonable accommodation, which can include flexible work arrangements or a period of medical leave.  You may also be eligible for FMLA if your medical condition renders you unable to work remotely.
    2. If you are ineligible for FMLA or an ADA reasonable accommodation, you will need to discuss flexible work arrangements or a period of leave (paid or unpaid) with your supervisor.

 

  1. Is FMLA or ADA leave paid?
    1. No, neither the FMLA nor the ADA guarantee paid leave. However, you may use any accrued annual, sick, or pandemic leave (where applicable) to continue your income during your leave.

 

  1. If my supervisor is offering flexibilities to telework, should preference be given to older workers (CDC guidelines provide that persons over 65 are at higher risk)?
    1. When a supervisor is considering offering workplace flexibility to otherwise comparable workers, an older worker’s increased risk level, based on CDC guidance, may be given priority. However, age alone does not determine priority.  Age alone is not a disability under ADA. Similarly, while an employee may not be treated adversely because of their age, they also are not entitled to preferential treatment because of age.

 

  1. If I live with someone who is in a high-risk category, am I entitled to an ADA reasonable accommodation to work remotely?
    1. No, you may be required to return to work as the ADA applies only to the employee’s own health condition; however, please consult with your supervisor if teleworking is a viable option for you.  You may also be entitled to certain time off or leave benefits. Please contact [email protected] or 571-553-8382 for assistance.

 

  1. If I am designated to return to work, either full-time or intermittent (known as “On-Campus Cohort”) and I refuse to be tested for COVID-19, can I return to work?
    1. No. As communicated in the Fall 2020 Reopening plan, the On-Campus Cohort, must adhere to the testing and training protocols.  See https://coronavirus.gwu.edu/.  More additional information, please review the Frequently Asked Questions at https://coronavirus.gwu.edu/top-faqs.
    2. If you refuse testing due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief, you should contact EEO at 202-994-9656 or [email protected].

 

  1. What if multiple employees request to telework?
    1. Managers will assess requests to ensure business continuity. If necessary, managers may consult with their Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) to evaluate conflicting employee requests, taking into account any extenuating circumstances such as medical risk factors and dependent caretaking obligations due to school closures. 

 

  1. What if multiple employees with disabilities request to continue to telework as an accommodation?  Is the supervisor required to approve all ADA reasonable accommodation requests?
    1. No. When an employee requests an ADA reasonable accommodation, the supervisor is entitled to understand the disability-related limitation that necessitates the accommodation. If there is no disability-related limitation that requires telework, there is no legal obligation to grant a telework accommodation.  If there is a disability-related limitation, but it can effectively be addressed with another form or alternate “reasonable” accommodation at the workplace, then the employer can choose that alternative to telework. If a supervisor allows an employee to telework due to COVID-19 and has chosen temporarily to excuse employees from performing one or more essential job functions, they are not obligated to grant a request -- after the workplace reopens -- to continue telework as a reasonable accommodation, if it would require continuing to excuse employees from performing an essential function. 

 

  1. If I am a part of the On-Campus Cohort required to wear a mask to be on campus but cannot wear a mask, must I return to work?
    1. If you are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition, please contact EEO/ER Office to request an ADA reasonable accommodation. Absent an approved ADA reasonable accommodation, you may not return to work without a mask.

 

  1.  What if I am unable to return to work due to a medical condition?
    1. If you cannot return to work or telework due to a current/active medical condition, please contact benefits at [email protected] or 571-553-8382.
    2. If you do not qualify for FMLA and cannot return to work due to medical condition, please contact EEO/ER Office to discuss an ADA reasonable accommodation

 

  1.  If I had or would have had an ADA reasonable accommodation if I were working on campus but am currently teleworking, am I still entitled to the same reasonable accommodations for my disability as I would be in the workplace?
    1. This depends on the nature of the disability and the requested accommodation. All employees, whether remote or on-campus, can request an ADA reasonable accommodation. However, an accommodation that is feasible and does not pose an undue hardship in the workplace may be unnecessary or may pose an undue hardship when considering different circumstances, such as location. Supervisors are encouraged to be flexible while staff work from home.  Interim accommodations might be appropriate while a decision is being discussed or additional information provided.

 

  1.  Who do I contact if I am unable to return to work?
    1. Employees should notify their supervisor; however, it is recommended that you do not share any specific medical conditions (including family member health conditions) with your supervisor. Either the Benefits Department, EEO/ER Office, or your HRBP will provide any relevant information to your supervisor while keeping confidential your protected health information.

 

  1. How do I determine my eligibility for time off and leave?
    1. Please contact [email protected] for assistance.  

 

  1.  How do I determine the name of my HRBP?
    1. A list of HR Business Partners can be found at https://hr.gwu.edu/hr-staff       

 

Resources & Quick Links

Benefits - https://hr.gwu.edu/benefits, [email protected], 571-553-8382

HRMD - [email protected]

EEO - [email protected], 202-994-9656