Reasonable Accommodation Aid

Home / Campus / Disability Management ( Published on 2014-08-04 )

The following aid is designed to help department managers and supervisors respond to questions of:

  • Reasonable Accommodation
  • Accommodating Employees with Mental Disabilities
  • Interviewing People with Disabilities

This information is provided as a follow-up to the Supervisor’s Guide to Complying with the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA)

Although the job aids focus primarily on employees with disabilities, please remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also covers broad pre-employment issues of recruitment, selection, and so forth.

We hope this information will be helpful to you, particularly in terms of your internal job descriptions which should be re-framed into essential functions. Within Human Resources, the Disability Management Services and Recruiting units can assist you with questions related to essential job functions.

For questions regarding employment of people with disabilities, please contact our following Divisions:

Campus Disability Management Services

Campus Talent Acquisition Services

What is Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process, to perform essential job functions, or enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals in the workplace. What are some Reasonable Accommodations?

  • Transitional Work Temporarily reassign duties to give the employee needed recuperative time. Be sure that the employee and doctor understand and agree with the proposed time frame (typically 60-90 days).
  • Reduced Work Schedule Part-time work can bridge the gap between partial recuperation and return to full duties. Disability benefits may provide partial disability payments to offset lost wages.
  • Modified Work The most common and often inexpensive accommodations include changes to assigned work tasks, methods or equipment.
  • Time Flexibility: starting earlier, leaving later, or working a reduced time schedule, can assist employees who need a gradual return to work after being ill or who are coping with a chronic illness.
  • Specialized Equipment: using assistive technology can sometimes be helpful. Such items as voice activated computers, optical character recognition software, optical scanners, and voice synthesizers fall into this category. 
  • Ergonomic equipment – ergonomic work station equipment such as a specialized keyboard, adjustable desk or office chair, handwriting devices, etc.  To access the UCSF Office Ergonomics eCourse:
  1. Use your 9 digit UCID to login to:
  2. Complete the training and Self-Evaluation.
  3. Work with your supervisor to implement recommended changes, including purchasing recommended equipment.
  • Alternate Work If other options aren't feasible, the employee may return to a different job in the same or another department. Assess alternative work options in your department, consult the employee, and make sure that the employee is considered for all appropriate open positions. If options within the employee's department are limited, identify other opportunities through consultation with the Disability Management Services.

How do you determine reasonable accommodation options for a disabled employee returning to work?

  1. Analyze the Job
    • Identify the essential job functions for the employee's current or desired position and determine if there is flexibility with the tasks of the job.
    • Review any job analysis previously prepared for assistance with identifying essential functions. Contact Disability Management Services if a Job Analysis might be indicated.
  2. Identify Disability-Related Restrictions
    • Ask the employee exactly what he or she has difficulty doing on the job and review the applicable work related restrictions.
  3. Identify Potential Accommodations
    • The employee is often your best source for ideas.
    • Call Disability Management Services for further advice and ideas.
    • The more possibilities you can identify, the better the accommodation.
  4. Select the Best Option -- the One that Most Effectively Balances the Needs of the Employee and the Department.
    • Involve the employee in this decision
    • Give preference to the employee's suggestions whenever possible, but remember that the final decision rests with the University and is based on business need.

Reasonable Accommodation and Mental Health Conditions

The EEOC's guidelines state that people with mental disabilities, who can perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation, are protected under the ADAAA. Although you can't ask for detailed information (such as a diagnosis), you can ask for enough details about the disability-related limitations to help you identify possible accommodations.

Accommodating Employees with a Mental Health Condition

The goal is to get enough information to decide if reasonable accommodation is necessary. Supervisors may be confronted by either of two situations:

  1. An employee may disclose a mental disability that affects job performance, or
  2. The supervisor may observe behavior or other signs that indicate some functional limitations.

Do not attempt to evaluate or diagnose the employee's behavior. Consult with either the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program who can provide assessment services or with Campus or Medical Center Disability Management Services who can assist with obtaining needed information regarding workplace capacities and/or restrictions.

Some Accommodation Suggestions

Examples of accommodations (depending on business needs) for employees with mental health conditions include:

  • Flexible Scheduling

Allow more frequent or extended breaks, different starting times, time off for doctor appointments, etc. For example, you might move an employee to a later shift to accommodate drowsiness experienced after taking morning medication.

  • Reduced Work Schedule

Temporarily reduce work hours or reassign the employee to part-time work. An employee might return to work part-time following a hospitalization (drawing partial short-term disability and part-time salary) until able to a resume full-time schedule.

  • Telecommuting

Depending on the type of job, allowing the employee to work from home part of the time could be appropriate. For example, a programmer might work from home two or three days a week to partially accommodate an anxiety or adjustment disorder.

  • Modified Job

Reassigning work tasks, evaluating equipment and machinery used in terms of safety issues, reassigning work area for ease of concentration and/or reduced noise levels.

An Important Reminder:  Accommodating a mental health condition does not mean tolerating behavior counter to UC policy or lowering performance standards. The goal of accommodation is to help the employee perform the essential job functions and meet designated performance standards.

Interviewing Individuals with Disabilities

Permissible Questions

  • "Can you perform these job duties, with or without reasonable accommodations?"
  • "Please demonstrate how you would perform this task." (OR "please describe ..." if demonstrating requires an accommodation not currently available.

An Exception

The above are the only acceptable forms for questions when you interview a disabled applicant, unless the applicant requests an accommodation in order to take a pre-employment exam. In such cases, you may ask for documentation of the disability-related need for accommodation before you conduct the test. All other disability-related questions are prohibited

Prohibited Questions

  • "Do you have a disability that would prevent you from performing the tasks of this job?"
  • "What accommodations do you need?"
  • "How did you become disabled? Are you expected to recover?"
  • "How much sick time does your disability cause you to use?"
  • "Will you need time off for treatment?"
  • "Have you ever requested accommodations in order to perform certain job tasks?"
  • "Do you have AIDS (multiple sclerosis, back problems, etc.)?"

Do's and Dont's

  • Do confine your questions to job-related issues. Ask questions like, "Can you perform filing tasks in this area, use the copy machine, and transport files from here to there?" rather than, "Can you walk, reach, and carry?"
  • Don't ask about a disability, even if information is disclosed voluntarily. For example, an applicant talks about work experience acquired "before the onset of my cancer". You may not follow up with questions about the illness, even though it is the applicant who brought up the subject.
  • Do ask a person, whose disability might reasonably be expected to interfere with job performance, to demonstrate or describe how he or she will perform essential functions For instance, you may ask a vision-impaired applicant to explain how he or she would file, use a computer, sort mail, etc., since these tasks typically require good vision.
  • Don't ask about the need for or type of accommodation. If an applicant says something like, "With certain accommodations, I'm sure I could do the job", you may not respond with questions like, "What type of accommodation?" or "Why? Are you disabled in some way?"

After the Offer

Once you make a conditional offer of employment, the rules change. Now you may ask for more information about the applicant's disability, to clarify the related work limitations and reasonable accommodation needs.


As with all other personnel records, all disability-related information is strictly confidential. Any such information you obtain during or after the interview must be kept in a separate, confidential file.