Effective Date: April 22, 2019
Expiration Date: April 22, 2024
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3.1.1 Employees may make a request for a reasonable accommodation to: (1) a supervisor or manager in the individual’s chain of command; (2) the Center EEO Office; or (4) any other individual designated by the Agency to accept such requests (e.g., the Center DPM). 11 (See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.203(d)(3)(i)(D) and Sections 2.1.) The decision whether to grant or deny an employee’s reasonable accommodation request is made by the employee’s supervisor or manager in his/her chain of command (“Decision Maker”) in consultation with the Center DPM. (See Section 2.1.)
3.1.2 Job applicants may make a reasonable accommodation request to any Agency employee connected with the Agency’s application process. (See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.203(d)(3)(i)(D) and Section 2.2.) The NASA employee receiving the request is responsible for communicating this request to the Human Resource Specialist (HRS) identified on the vacancy announcement. The HRS (Decision Maker) is responsible for determining whether to grant or deny a reasonable accommodation request from a job applicant. This decision should be made in consultation with the Center DPM. An example would be a request for sign language interpretation.
3.1.3 An oral or written request starts the reasonable accommodations process. Oral requests for a reasonable accommodation shall be processed from the date that the requesting individual makes a request to the Agency personnel identified in Sections 3.1.1 and 3.1.2. of this NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR). A request does not have to contain any special words, such as "reasonable accommodation," "disability," or "Rehabilitation Act." A supervisor, manager, or the DPM should ask individuals whether they are requesting a reasonable accommodation if the nature of the initial communication is unclear, but the employee links a request or need for an accommodation to a medical condition.
220.127.116.11 Example A: An employee tells her supervisor, "I'm having trouble getting to work at my scheduled starting time because of medical treatments I'm undergoing." This may be a request for a reasonable accommodation.
18.104.22.168 Example B: An employee tells his supervisor, "I need six weeks off to get treatment for a back problem." This may be a request for a reasonable accommodation.
22.214.171.124 Example C: A new employee, who uses a wheelchair, informs the employer that her wheelchair cannot fit under the desk in her office. This is a request for reasonable accommodation.
126.96.36.199 Example D: An employee tells his supervisor that he would like a new chair because his present one is uncomfortable. Although this is a request for a change at work, his statement is insufficient to put the employer on notice that he is requesting reasonable accommodation. He does not link his need for the new chair with a medical condition.
3.1.4 An individual with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation at any time, even if the existence of a disability has not been previously disclosed.
3.1.5 A family member, friend, health professional, or other representative may also request a reasonable accommodation on behalf of a NASA employee or applicant, subject to verification by the employee or applicant, when able.
3.1.6 Employees and job applicants are not required to initiate the accommodation request in writing. It is the Agency’s preference that employees and job applicants, however, complete and submit NF 1699 or its equivalent, when possible. (See Sec. 2.1.1a(2) and Appendix F.)
3.1.7 If an employee or job applicant makes an oral accommodation request, the Decision Maker shall transfer the request to NF 1699 or its equivalent, as soon as possible, but no later than five calendar days from the date the request is received. The Decision Maker shall then request the employee or applicant to promptly review the completed form and sign it, acknowledging that it accurately represents the employee’s or applicant’s request.
3.1.8 For reasonable accommodations needed on a repeated basis (e.g., the assistance of sign language interpreters or readers), the NF 1699 or its equivalent should only be completed for the initial request and should clarify that the accommodation is needed on a continuing basis.
3.2.1 Timeframes. The supervisor shall process accommodation requests and provide accommodations as expeditiously as possible. Failure to comply with the processing timeframes identified throughout these procedures may result in a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and NASA policy.
188.8.131.52 NASA’s goal is that reasonable accommodation requests, if approved, shall be provided within 30 calendar days of the date the request was made, unless there are extenuating circumstances. However, the Agency recognizes that requests that need medical documentation or involve other extenuating circumstances may take longer. (See Appendix C, Section C.3.)
184.108.40.206 If extenuating circumstances exist, every effort should be made to ensure prompt processing, such that processing time does not extend beyond 60 calendar days. In such cases, the Center DPM should inform the Agency DPM of the delay for tracking purposes and document the delay in the Agency’s Reasonable Accommodations Management System (RAMS). (See Appendix C, Section C.3.)
3.2.2 The Interactive Process. The supervisor and the employee requesting the accommodation shall engage in an interactive discussion, or process, to determine whether the employee is a qualified individual with a disability, and if so, what reasonable accommodation would be appropriate that would not cause an undue hardship to the Agency. This means that the individual requesting the accommodation and the supervisor shall communicate, preferably by discussing the request, the potential accommodations, and how the requested accommodation shall enable the requester to perform the essential functions of the job. The Center DPM will facilitate this process. (See Section 2.5 and 3.2.4.)
3.2.3 Initial Supervisory Steps
220.127.116.11 Within two calendar days of receipt of the request, the supervisor shall acknowledge the request in writing and respond to the requestor by explaining that he/she shall be the deciding official on the request. Within this timeframe, the Decision Maker shall also notify the DPM of the request.
18.104.22.168 Within five calendar days of receipt of the request, the supervisor shall complete an NF 1699 or its equivalent, which shall be provided to the requestor for signature if the request is made in an alternate format. (See Section 3.1.7.)
22.214.171.124 Within ten calendar days of receipt of the individual’s request, the Decision Maker shall have an initial discussion with the employee and/or his/her representative to discuss the processing of the request. The Decision Maker shall also notify the Center DPM of the request. The DPM shall notify the employee or applicant that supporting reasonable medical documentation is needed to process the request.
3.2.4 Communication as Priority. Communication is essential throughout the entire process. This means that the applicant or employee requesting the accommodation should also participate, to the extent possible, in helping to identify effective accommodations that are related to the application or selection process and/or the essential functions of the job. Resources available to help both the Decision Maker and the individual requesting the accommodation are listed in Appendix E. As part of the interactive process, the supervisor (or HRS) and the employee (or applicant) requesting the reasonable accommodation shall communicate to ensure a full exchange of relevant information.
3.2.5 Third Party Requests. Prior to proceeding, the supervisor should, if practicable, confirm that the individual with the disability does, in fact, want a reasonable accommodation. For example, it may not be practicable to confirm the request if the individual has been hospitalized with an acute condition. 12 In this situation, the Decision Maker shall process the third party’s request to the extent possible and consult directly with the individual needing the accommodation as soon as it is practicable.
3.2.6 Case-by-Case Basis. Every reasonable accommodation request is processed on a case-by-case basis. Where the disability, the need for accommodation, and the type of accommodation to be provided are clear, extensive discussions may not be necessary. The accommodation that suits one individual may not be suitable for another individual with the same disability.
3.2.7 Cases In Which Medical Documentation Is Needed. In more complex cases, such as those cases in which a disability and/or the need for reasonable accommodation are not obvious or otherwise known to the DPM, the DPM shall seek additional information or clarification from the individual requesting the accommodation. The DPM is highly encouraged to engage the Center Reasonable Accommodations Team in complex cases of this nature, as appropriate. (See Section 3.3.)
126.96.36.199 Examples where additional information is reasonably required include the following: where the specific limitations, problems, or barriers are unclear; where there is more than one disability; where an effective accommodation is not obvious; or where the parties are identifying different possible reasonable accommodations.
188.8.131.52 In such cases, the Decision Maker, through the DPM, may require supporting reasonable medical documentation from the individual regarding the disability and any functional limitations which are related to the essential functions of the job. (See Section 3.3; Appendix A for definition of “reasonable medical documentation.”) The reasonable medical documentation should come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional.
184.108.40.206 When additional medical information is reasonably necessary, the 30 calendar day time requirement for processing requests for reasonable accommodations shall be put on hold until the medical documentation is received.
3.2.8 Expedited Processing. In certain circumstances, a request for reasonable accommodation requires an expedited review and decision in a timeframe that is shorter than 30 calendar days. (See Appendix A, “Expedited Processing” definition.)
3.2.9 Interim or Partial Accommodations. If the reasonable accommodation shall be delayed and the facts and circumstances make it reasonably likely that the employee shall be entitled to a reasonable accommodation, the Decision Maker shall provide the requesting individual an interim or partial accommodation, absent undue hardship. (See Section 220.127.116.11; Appendix A, “Extenuating Circumstances” definition; Appendix C, Sections C.3. and C.4.)
3.2.10 When a reasonable accommodation can be provided in less than the maximum time permitted under this NPR for processing when extenuating circumstances exist (60 calendar days), failure to provide the accommodation in a prompt manner may result in NASA’s violation of the Rehabilitation Act. (See Section 18.104.22.168.)
22.214.171.124 To the extent that the Decision Maker fails to respond to a request for reasonable accommodation within the prescribed timeframes (see Section 3.2.1), this may constitute a “denial” of reasonable accommodation. In such cases, employees may appeal this “denial” to their second-level supervisor. (See Section 3.6, regarding appeals of denials of reasonable accommodation.)
126.96.36.199 To the extent that an employee who has requested a reasonable accommodation becomes non-responsive during the process, that is, does not respond to requests for requested documentation after repeated attempts or otherwise fails to continue the interactive discussion, absent extenuating circumstances, the Center DPM shall make reasonable efforts to contact the employee and determine the reasons for the employee’s non-responsiveness. (See Section C.3.) If the employee remains non-responsive 60 calendar days after the original request, the supervisor shall administratively close the case by completing the NF 1699A or its equivalent filling in the item pertaining to the reasons for the closure, and providing a copy of the NF 1699A or its equivalent to the employee. 13
3.2.12 Confidentiality. The supervisor or any other NASA official who receives information in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation may share information connected with that request with only those Agency officials with a need to know the information. The supervisor should notify the Center DPM to obtain guidance to ensure that the proper confidentiality procedures have been followed. Under the Rehabilitation Act, medical information obtained in connection with the reasonable accommodation process must be kept confidential. All NASA employees or stakeholders associated with this process who obtain or receive such information are strictly bound by these confidentiality requirements. (See also Section 3.3.4.)
3.3.1 Requesting and Obtaining Medical Information
188.8.131.52 The DPM shall consult with the Reasonable Accommodations Team to determine whether it is necessary to obtain medical information to assess whether the requesting individual has a disability and/or to identify the requesting individual's functional limitations consistent with rules of construction set forth under 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. and 29 CFR § 1630. (See Appendix A, “Reasonable Accommodation Team” and “Substantially Limits” definitions.)
184.108.40.206 In cases where medical documentation is necessary, the DPM shall:
a. Make such request in writing to the requesting individual as soon as possible after receipt of the request for reasonable accommodation.
b. The written request shall describe the nature of the job and the essential functions the individual is expected to perform. Additionally, the request shall include a copy of the individual’s position description, any other relevant information about his/her job duties, and a limited medical release. (See Sections 220.127.116.11(b), C.5.)
c. The types of medical documentation that may be requested in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation include:
(1) The diagnosis;
(2) The nature of the limitations imposed by the individual’s impairment, for example, the condition, manner, duration, or severity of the individual's impairment; 14
(3) The activity or activities limited by the impairment; and
(4) The reason(s) supporting the request for reasonable accommodation or the particular reasonable accommodation requested – specifically, how the reasonable accommodation would assist the individual in the position, or position applied for, to perform the essential functions of the job, or to enjoy a benefit of the workplace. 15
d. Explain to the individual requesting the reasonable accommodation that the failure to timely provide medical information or documentation or to cooperate with NASA's efforts to obtain such documentation may result in a delay in processing the request for reasonable accommodation and ultimately may result in a denial of the requested reasonable accommodation.
e. Ensure consistency with requirements under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008, 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff et seq., such that all requests for medical information warn the employee and/or health care provider from whom the information is requested not to provide genetic information including family medical history. 16 (See Section C.6.)
f. Ensure that the individual knows all records pertaining to the request for reasonable accommodation are protected by the Privacy Act. (See Section 18.104.22.168.)
22.214.171.124 The DPM shall safeguard the medical documentation and forward the medical documentation to the NASA physician responsible for review, if a review by a NASA physician is necessary. (See Section 3.3.3.)
126.96.36.199 If the medical documentation provided by the requestor is insufficient to allow the supervisor, with appropriate consultation with the DPM and the Reasonable Accommodations Team, to make an informed decision about whether to grant or deny the request, the Decision Maker may request supplemental documentation through the DPM. The following applies to requests for supplemental documentation:
a. The DPM shall request this information in writing, explaining to the individual seeking the reasonable accommodation, in specific terms, why the information provided is insufficient or incomplete, what additional information is needed, and why it is necessary for a determination on the reasonable accommodation request.
b. The DPM may ask the individual to sign a limited release authorizing a NASA physician to contact her or his health care provider directly and/or submit a list of specific questions to the individual's health care professional if not already submitted with the initial request.
c. If the medical documentation provided by the requester does not result in sufficient information, NASA may require the requester to go to a health care provider of NASA's choice at NASA's expense. 17 Consideration should be given to providing the employee interim or partial reasonable accommodations during the time the additional documentation is being obtained.
d. The DPM is highly encouraged to consult with the Reasonable Accommodations Team throughout this process, as appropriate.
3.3.2 Timeframes Related to Medical Information
188.8.131.52 If the DPM must request medical documentation from the individual requesting the accommodation, the timeframe shall stop on the day that the DPM makes a request to the individual to obtain medical information, and shall resume on the day that the information/documentation is received by the DPM.
184.108.40.206 After the DPM receives the medical information provided by the requestor or his/her physician, the DPM shall review it and determine, in consultation with the Center Reasonable Accommodations (RA) Team, whether it establishes that the requestor has a disability that necessitates a reasonable accommodation or whether it warrants review by a NASA physician. If the DPM determines that a review by a NASA physician is necessary, the NASA physician shall review and evaluate the medical documentation. Once the review is completed, the NASA physician shall notify the DPM and shall contact the requesting individual's physician if necessary. (See Appendix A for definition of “reasonable medical documentation.”)
220.127.116.11 The Decision Maker shall make a determination on the request for reasonable accommodation in writing as soon as possible, but not later than 30 calendar days (or 60 calendar days in extenuating circumstances).
3.3.3 Evaluating Medical Documentation
18.104.22.168 Once the requisite medical documentation is received by the DPM, if necessary, a NASA physician shall evaluate it.
22.214.171.124 The evaluation shall be conducted at NASA's expense.
126.96.36.199 The NASA physician shall review the medical documentation to:
a. Determine if it is sufficient for the Agency to decide whether the individual has a disabling medical condition;
b. Provide detailed information on the employee’s medical limitations to assist the supervisor in identifying what types of accommodation(s) would be reasonable and effective; and
c. Determine whether the requestor can perform the duties of the job held without posing a "direct threat" to the health or safety of himself/herself or others.
188.8.131.52 In general, it is not necessary for the NASA physician to inform the supervisor of the specific medical condition, including diagnosis, but Decision Makers do need to know the individual’s functional limitations. Medical diagnoses are considered private and confidential and shall be disclosed to the supervisor only with the employee’s approval.
3.3.4 Confidentiality of Medical Information
184.108.40.206 All medical information obtained in connection with the reasonable accommodation process shall be kept confidential and only shared on a need-to-know basis. (See NASA 10EEOR and 10RAR, Privacy Act System of Records Notices for Equal Opportunity Records and Reasonable Accommodation Records, https://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-privacy-act-system-of-records-notices-sorns.)
a. Accordingly, all medical information obtained in connection with the reasonable accommodation process shall be securely kept by the Center DPM in files separate from the individual's personnel file.
b. Appropriate steps shall be taken by the Decision Maker to ensure consistency in accordance with requirements under 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff et seq. and 29 CFR Part 1635. (See Appendix C.)
c. Any authorized NASA employee who obtains or receives such information is subject to the restrictions and requirements under 5 U.S.C. § 552a.
220.127.116.11 Individuals and organizations to which information may be disclosed can include, but are not limited to:
a. Supervisors and managers who need to know about necessary restrictions on the work or duties of the employee's position or the position for which the applicant has applied, and about the reasonable accommodation(s);
b. Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, and Occupational Health and Safety personnel, if the disability may require emergency treatment or assistance with building evacuation during emergencies;
c. Federal Government officials who need the information to determine the Agency's compliance with applicable law; or
d. NASA contractors with a need to know, such as NASA physicians working under contract for the Agency who are not Agency officials.
18.104.22.168 Whenever medical information is disclosed, the individual disclosing the information shall inform the recipient(s) of the information that they are strictly bound by the requirements of 5 U.S.C. § 552a.
22.214.171.124 All correspondence protected under 5 U.S.C. § 552a and NPR 1450.10 shall have a NF 1534, Privacy Act Cover Sheet, and contain the statement, "Privacy Act Warning Document" on the top of the document, outside the document package, or as a cover sheet for the correspondence. If NF 1534 is unavailable, the records being protected by the Act shall be identified by using the wording in NF 1534 and transmitted under the Privacy Act cover sheet.
126.96.36.199 All transmissions, electronic and paper, regarding a reasonable accommodations request shall be encrypted, in conformance with NASA policies, NPR 1382.1 (NASA Privacy Procedural Requirements) and NPR 2810.1 (Security of Information Technology).
3.4.1 Upon determining that a reasonable accommodation will be provided, the Decision Maker shall immediately communicate the decision orally and subsequently in writing using NF 1699A or its equivalent (see Appendix F) to the requestor within five calendar days of approval.
3.4.2 When the Decision Maker denies a specific requested accommodation, but offers to provide a different one in its place, which was not agreed to during the interactive process, the NF 1699A or its equivalent should be updated to explain both the reasons for the denial of the requested accommodation and the reasons that the Decision Maker believes that the chosen accommodation will be an effective alternative.
3.4.3 Funding to support the provision of reasonable accommodation is a Center/Installation determination, made consistent with requirements in this NPR.
3.4.4 Reasonable accommodations that can be requested include, but are not limited to, the following:
a. Making existing facilities accessible;
b. Restructuring the job; 18
c. Utilizing part-time or modified work schedules (e.g., telework, etc.);
d. Adjusting or modifying tests, training materials, or policies;
e. Providing qualified readers and interpreters;
f. Acquiring or modifying equipment, technology, or furniture; or
g. As a last resort, reassigning an individual to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified.
3.5.1 Reasons for the denial of a request for reasonable accommodation may include, but are not limited to, the following:
a. It is determined, based on the interactive process and in consultation with relevant subject matter experts, for example, the Reasonable Accommodations Team, the requested reasonable accommodation would not be reasonable and/or effective; 19
b. Providing the requested accommodation would result in undue hardship to the Agency;
c. Medical documentation is inadequate to establish that the individual has a disability and/or needs a reasonable accommodation;
d. The requested accommodation would require the elimination of an essential function of the position;
e. The requested accommodation would require the lowering of a performance standard (e.g., safety, quality, reliability, etc.); or
f. The requested accommodation would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. (See also Appendix A, “Direct Threat” definition.)
3.5.2 Before denying the request, the Decision Maker shall consult with the DPM and the EEO Director to determine whether other effective reasonable accommodations exist that would not impose an undue hardship and, therefore, can be provided.
3.5.3 When evaluating budgetary or administrative concerns to determine if undue hardship exists, the Decision Maker, in consultation with the Center DPM, shall follow the regulatory standards in 29 CFR § 1630.2(p)(2).
3.5.4 If the supervisor denies the reasonable accommodation request, the supervisor shall promptly communicate this decision to the requester and complete NF 1699A or its equivalent. The supervisor shall also provide a copy of the written denial to the individual who made the request and to the DPM.
a. In cases where an alternate format is appropriate, the information in NF 1699A or its equivalent shall be provided in the relevant format.
b. The explanation for the denial shall be written in plain language, clearly stating the specific reasons for the denial (e.g., why the reasonable accommodation would not be effective or why it would result in undue hardship).
3.5.5 Notification of Denial
188.8.131.52 For any notification of denial of a request for reasonable accommodation, the Decision Maker shall inform individuals of their right to:
a. Engage in informal dispute resolution, including the right to request for reconsideration and appeal to a manager in their chain of command (see Section 3.6), and
b. Contact the EEO Office at the respective NASA Center within 45 days of receipt of the written notice of denial, in accordance with 29 CFR § 1614.105(a)(1).
184.108.40.206 If an employee elects to seek reconsideration and appeal of the denial, the 45-day time period to contact the EEO Office is suspended until the final disposition of the request.
3.6.1 Within ten calendar days, individuals may request reconsideration of a denial of reasonable accommodation to the Decision Maker or a manager in their chain of command. Additional information may be presented to support this request.
3.6.2 The Decision Maker shall make a determination on the request for reconsideration and notify the employee in writing within ten calendar days of receiving the request, absent extenuating circumstances. (See Appendix A, “Extenuating Circumstances” definition; see also Section C.3.)
3.6.3 If the request for reconsideration is denied, employees may appeal the denial within ten calendar days of receipt of denial to a manager in the individual’s chain of command. Additional information may be provided to the manager in support of the appeal.
3.6.4 The manager in the individual’s chain of command shall make a determination on the appeal and notify the employee in writing within ten calendar days of receiving the request, absent extenuating circumstances.
3.6.5 Individuals have the right to contact an EEO Counselor at any stage of the process. With regard to timeliness, an individual should contact the respective NASA Center EEO Office within 45 days of receipt of written notice of any decision issued at any stage of the process, in accordance with 29 CFR § 1614.105(a)(1). 20
3.7.1 The assessment process is intended to allow the Agency to ensure that a previously granted accommodation continues to be effective, appropriate, and does not cause an undue burden to the overall operation of the Agency or its operating components.
3.7.2 The annual assessment shall be conducted by each Center DPM.
3.7.3. The assessment shall take into account the following factors:
a. any change in the work environment;
b. any change in business systems, operations, and mission;
c. any change in the essential function of the position held;
d. any change in the employee's medical condition;
e. new IT technology and/or device that can meet the need; and
f. any other factors that are deemed relevant and appropriate for this purpose.
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