COVID-19 Temporary Reasonable Accommodation Process – Spring 2021 (& remaining Fall 2020)
This process encompasses both ADA reasonable accommodation requests and Flex-work adjustment requests
As part of the institutional response to COVID-19, the University is committed to supporting employees impacted by COVID-19. The University has implemented a robust COVID-19 Public Health plan for all campuses that we anticipate will safely allow for in-person instruction in the spring 2021 and remaining fall 2020, which will include engineering controls, sanitizing, testing and tracing, use of personal protective equipment and social distancing.
We recognize that there may be some employees with medical disabilities that require temporary reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a result of COVID-19. Some employees who self-identify as having an increased risk of severe outcome from COVID-19 infection as determined by current CDC guidance may have a medical condition that rises to the level of a disability under the ADA.
The University implemented an expedited process to consider reasonable accommodation requests for ADA-qualified employees who are impacted by COVID-19. For situations where employees have increased risk conditions that are determined not to be ADA disabilities, or have family members at home with serious health risks, university Flex-work and other workplace adjustments may be available. The ADA reasonable accommodation process is not intended to address employees who test positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms as such situations are covered by university leave policies.
Reasonable Accommodations Request for a Disability
An ADA reasonable accommodation is a modification of job duties or the work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment available to a similarly-situated employee without a disability. Examples might be the use of personal protective equipment (e.g. face masks, gloves or gowns), shift changes or changes to work stations to limit exposure to others, or teleworking. Reasonable accommodations are granted on a case-by-case basis after proper analysis of the disability in question, the necessity of the accommodation and to ensure the modification does not cause an undue hardship (e.g. significant difficulty or expense) on the University.
If you would like to request a temporary reasonable accommodation, the process is as follows:
- Submit a “Request for Reasonable Accommodation” and a "Healthcare Provider Release Form" (available below). You should also submit a current letter from your Healthcare Provider offering limited medical information that verifies your medical condition and the manner and severity of the impact of COVID-19 on that condition as it relates to your employment and ability to return to UNH campuses. Your Healthcare Provider should include a brief rationale why the measures (PPE, environmental controls, social distancing, testing and tracing) put in place at the University would not be sufficient protections as a means of an accommodation. Healthcare providers may be contacted for medical conditions that are not visible and/or necessitate clarification on the manner and severity of impact during COVID-19.
The forms are available in PDF-fillable OR Word:
- Request for Reasonable Accommodation .PDF
- Request for Reasonable Accommodation .WORD
- Healthcare Provider Release Form .PDF
- Healthcare Provider Release Form .WORD
- The EEO/ADA Compliance Officer (or Appointee) will review the reasonable accommodation request and medical documentation to determine if the individual qualifies as a person with a disability under the ADA; and
- The EEO/ADA Compliance Officer (or Appointee) will engage in an interactive process as necessary with the employee and supervisor to discuss accommodations and employee’s essential work functions.
For situations where employees have increased risk conditions that are determined not to be ADA disabilities, and/or where social distancing, PPE, or something that comparably reduces exposure risk would constitute the accommodation or adjustment, the EEO/ADA Compliance Officer (or Appointee) will work with the employee and supervisor to determine if university Flex-work and other workplace adjustments are available. To facilitate workload assignments consistent with these goals, faculty and staff who received medical ADA accommodations or medical Flex-work approvals during the fall semester will receive as Flex-work the same type of arrangements for the spring. There is accordingly no need to apply for a medical ADA accommodation or medical Flex-work for the spring term approval unless you have had a change in your circumstances since the fall term. For those who experienced changed circumstances that would require different medical ADA accommodations or medical Flex-work approval, the application process is available.
- Flex-Work Requests for Personal Reasons (not related to an employee’s medical condition)
While the University will give work accommodation/adjustment priority to requests related to an employee’s medical condition, we recognize there are also requests not related to an employee’s health that should be reviewed. These might include concerns about childcare/school closures, the health of others in the home, a personal concern about working on-campus or the need for specific protective equipment to perform a job.
If you are seeking a Flex-work adjustment not related to your personal health, please complete this FORM and send it to the same Submission Inbox used for medical related temporary accommodations. For Flex-Work Requests for Personal Reasons you Do Not need to complete the Healthcare Provider Release Form. If you were approved for Flex-work in the fall term, and there is no change in your circumstances you Do Not need to resubmit your requests for spring term. It is important that you do discuss with your supervisor or Dean’s Office whether Flex-work is available for the spring term.
Request for Prompt Submission of Requests
To make determinations before spring opening, the University is asking those requiring ADA temporary accommodations based upon possible COVID-19 conditions in the spring to submit requests as soon as possible. Early submission will allow us to give priority to accommodation needs of those with more serious medical conditions. While we ask that you simultaneously submit all three relevant documents as outlined in #1 above, we recognize time needed in obtaining your medical documentation. We strongly encourage you to submit the forms as soon as possible, pending you obtaining medical documentation to be submitted at a later date. Please submit all documents to this confidential Submission Inbox.
Notification Timing and Factors Being Considered
In order to allow for appropriate planning for instructional workloads and classroom schedules, accommodation requests from those who provide or support teaching will be reviewed first. Our first priority is employees with medical disabilities, but we may adjust work for those who have health conditions that do not rise to a disability. All requests should be submitted using the COVID-19 Temporary Reasonable Accommodation Process. ADA Accommodation and Flex-work adjustment determinations will be communicated as soon as possible. Other requests, including serious health risks for family members at home, will be considered after employee health circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why has UNH started a new COVID-19 Temporary Reasonable Accommodation Process?
In compliance with state and federal law, UNH has a long-standing process to consider requests for reasonable accommodations which allow those with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their job. The new COVID-19 accommodation process allows for expedited consideration of accommodation requests, including those to work remotely, during the fall semester because of COVID-19, and may reduce the need for medical documentation in many cases where temporary accommodations are appropriate. For situations where employees have increased risk conditions that are determined not to be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and/or where social distancing, PPE, or something that comparably reduces exposure risk would constitute the accommodation or adjustment but the employee is requesting to work remotely, the new COVID-19 Accommodation Process will allow Human Resources, supervisors, deans and departments to work quickly with the employee to determine if flex-work and other workplace adjustments are available for the fall term. All requests for reasonable accommodations and flex-work adjustments are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Why was there a deadline for submitting COVID-19 accommodation requests?
The university accepts ADA accommodation requests and flex work adjustment requests at any time, but asked that employees submit requests based upon possible COVID-19 conditions in the fall by June 30, 2020 to best prepare for the start of the academic year. The University appreciates those early submissions which allowed us to accommodate the needs of those with serious medical conditions first. The University will continue to receive and evaluate requests for accommodation and flex work adjustments at any time.
If I successfully taught classes remotely for the second half of the spring 2020 term and prefer to continue to work remotely, why can’t I just teach on-line for the fall 2020 term?
The University's plan includes both in-person and remote instruction during the fall 2020 term. UNH is a residential university and our commitment is to provide our students with in-person, face-to-face learning to the greatest extent that we safely can. While there is certainly a place in our curriculum for remote instruction, we are a residential, land, sea and space grant institution and our essential work as educators, and supporting the educational mission, happens on UNH campuses and in the classroom.
Some of our colleagues have serious medical conditions which are qualified disabilities that may not allow them to safely work on UNH campuses in the fall term even with the extensive safety and cleaning protocols that UNH is implementing to reduce the risk of possible exposure. If these colleagues are able to conduct their work remotely, we will ensure their assignments include online work during the fall term. Some colleagues who might prefer to work remotely may need to deliver face-to-face instruction as those who are medically able to work on UNH campuses will need to be here to do the important work of running a residential university. The University will protect the health of our entire community with extensive engineering controls (e.g., increased air circulation to buildings), sanitizing and enforcement of PPE and social distancing.
Can Graduate Assistants submit a request to work remotely either as an accommodation based on disability or a flex-work adjustment?
Can my supervisor or department chair assign remote work outside of the COVID-19 Accommodation Process?
It is critically important that supervisors and department chairs do not assign remote work to employees before we consider requests submitted through the COVID-19 accommodation process. The university is still working to determine how much instruction will occur remotely. Remote work assifgnments may be needed as reasonable accommodations for colleagues who have ADA disabilities that will not allow them to work on UNH campuses. If those assignments have been promised by supervisors or departments to employees who do not need accommodation, we may not be able to fulfill those promises because UNH must first meet our obligations to provide accommodations to colleagues with qualified disabilities.
Where can I find additional information about the process for requesting to work remotely either as an accommodation based on disability or a flex-work adjustment?
Please go to https://www.unh.edu/affirmativeaction/covid-19-temporary-reasonable-accommodation-process The process will be laid out that speaks to two categories: 1. temporary reasonable accommodations for a disability, and 2. temporary flex-work adjustments. You may also get to this information through the UNH COVID page, https://www.unh.edu/main/coronavirus#faculty “Information for Faculty and Staff”
Is an employee entitled to an accommodation under the ADA when they live with or care for a family member who is at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
No. The ADA is only applicable to employees of the institution and accommodations cannot be put in place based on the medical condition of a non-employee. However, employees who may have concerns about those whom they live with or care for may apply for flex-work arrangements.
How can I request remote teaching or work based on my concern to protect a family member with a disability or medical condition, or who may be at an increased risk from potential COVID-19 exposure?
Although the ADA does not qualify this circumstance as a disability for an employee, those who are concerned about immunocompromised or at-risk family members should still follow the COVID-19 Accommodation Process. UNH intends to provide faculty and staff with flex-work adjustments when possible to ensure the safest possible work conditions for our community. Please submit your request for flex-work adjustment through the COVID-19 Accommodation Process.
What is the difference between the temporary disability accommodations and flex-work adjustments?
Temporary disability accommodations are for employees with a medical condition which, based on medical documentation, rises to a “disability” as defined by the ADA who are requesting a reasonable accommodation because of their disability.
Temporary flex work adjustments are for situations where employees have increased risk conditions based on current CDC Guidance but that are determined not to be disabilities under the ADA and/or where social distancing, PPE, or something that comparably reduces exposure risk would constitute the accommodation or adjustment.
Current CDC Guidance lists medical conditions and other factors which are considered as a having some degree of increased risk. Does that mean I have a disability?
Not necessarily. Under the ADA, those that have qualified disabilities must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. While the increased risk conditions could rise to this level, some, such as age or pregnancy, would not qualify as a disability without some other associated conditions. This analysis is conducted on a case by case basis. Those who fall in increased risk categories but do not have a qualifying disability are still eligible to be considered for flex-work arrangements.
My healthcare provider's documentation states that my underlying medical condition can be accommodated by social distancing or the proper use of personal protection equipment, does this disqualify me from an accommodation?
Such documentation does not disqualify you from an accommodation, but clarifies that your medical provider believes that you are able to work in a place where social distancing is maintained and PPE is properly used. In such circumstances, social distancing, PPE or something that comparably reduces exposure risk would constitute the accommodation or adjustment. UNH may include enhanced PPE or additional environmental controls as further accommodations. We understand many faculty and staff may still feel uncomfortable interacting face-to-face. If your college or business unit has a need for additional employees to work remotely (to meet academic need for remote instruction or to help with campus density limits), you might be assigned to remote instruction/work for reasons unrelated to qualified disability. Accommodations and adjustments can take a number of forms, and working 100% remotely is not the only option.
When your health care provider is indicating that the appropriate accommodation is either a workplace that allows for social distancing or other accommodation that would allow for steps to minimize exposure, this medical opinion needs to guide the accommodation.
UNH is requiring returning faculty, staff and students to wear personal protective equipment, engage in infection control practices and practice social distancing. What if I have a disability or religious practices where I have a need for modified protective equipment?
If faculty, staff or students with a disability need an accommodation to these safety requirements (e.g., non-latex gloves, modified face masks for interpreters or others who communicate with an employee who uses lip reading, or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs), or require an accommodation for religious reasons (such as modified equipment due to religious garb), UNH will provide reasonable accommodations. Requests may be submitted through the COVID-19 Accommodation Process and anytime throughout the fall semester.
Who determines whether my request for a reasonable accommodation will be granted? Flex-work adjustment?
The university has assembled a team consisting of members of the Affirmative Action and Equity Office and Human Resources to conduct an initial evaluation of requests and gather necessary information. After an initial determination by this team as to whether a request requires an accommodation or is eligible for flex-work, the appropriate dean’s office or head of business unit will determine an appropriate solution.
How long are the temporary accommodations or flex-work adjustments being granted?
Accommodation requests and flex-work adjustments related to COVID-19 are being granted only for the Fall 2020 semester.
Is having a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19 an ADA disability that would warrant accommodation or flex-work adjustments?
No. Those who have either been diagnosed with, or are showing symptoms of, COVID-19 should follow current guidance with regard to self-quarantining and university policy which covers these situations. These situations are not covered by the Temporary COVID-19 Accommodation Process.
If I don’t have a medical condition or medical reason can I still request an accommodation or flex-work adjustment? How would I go about making such request?
Yes. While the university will give priority to those with disabilities under the ADA and to employees who have other non-qualifying medical conditions, requests for flex-work for other personal reasons (not based on a compromised heath condition) can still be made. Those requests can be made by submitting a request through the same accommodation process.
What if anytime during my teaching/working on, symptoms of my medical condition become triggered and I can’t effectively teach/work in a classroom, lab, do research or engage in a face-to-face environment?
Requests for ADA accommodations can be made at any point. If you experience changes to your medical condition during the semester, requests can be considered at that time.