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Being Heard: Introduction to Accommodation Requests

Before I begin, I would like to make it clear that having a disability isn't a "weakness". Unfortunately, due to social stigmas against mental and physical disabilities, the reality is that disabled people are treated as a liability instead of an asset. We all have our own cross to bear, with some struggles being more apparent in some people than others.

Because your employer likely already perceives you as a liability, you aren't doing yourself any favors by not asking for accommodations. In fact, it may justify your firing by the company as "incompetence", "not a team player", "difficult to work with", or whatever other lame excuses (no pun intended), that they can come up with. Before anyone gets offended, I myself identify as a disabled veteran. I have ADHD, depression, and quite possibly PTSD from my experiences in the military. This article will teach you how to request a disability in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1974 (ADA).

We will start off by listing the workflow of the accommodation request process:

  1. Research your disabilities on the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website and/or the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)

  2. Come up with a list of accommodations based on JAN's reasonable examples.

  3. Draft a request letter.

  4. Have someone from JAN peer review your draft.

  5. Submit your letter to human resources and student affairs for review.

  6. Collect medical documentation from your primary care physician, psychiatrist and/or psychologist.

  7. Be prepared for discussion/interaction from HR and student affairs.

  8. Be prepared to complete more paperwork from HR or student affairs.

  9. Be patient and wait for a determination letter.

  10. Carefully review the letter with JAN, and sign, if everything appears to be reasonable on the determination letter.

  11. Decide whether you want to identify any signs of retaliation to HR and/or student affairs and repeat the interactive process, if so.

  12. If you wish to file a complaint instead, skip the internal grievance process and report the incident to either your state's office of civil rights (OCR), the Department of Education's OCR, and/or the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

  13. Alternatively instead of the OFCCP, if you think you can wait (OFCCP cases relatively quickly), you can file charges through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

  14. Absolutely, under no circumstances share with anyone at your school that you filed charges. This could open you up to more retaliation. Try to stay "Business as Usual" for as long as possible.

There are pros and cons to reporting the incident to OFCCP as opposed to EEOC, and vice versa, but we all discuss that in a later article.

Because I did not know how long this article will be when I started it, we may need to treat the accommodation process as a new mini-series within the "Being Heard" module.

Before I close, however, I would like to make all of you aware of JAN. It is likely a well-kept secret within your organization's HR department, because it offers many great resources, not only for HR professionals, but for students as well. The link to the website is as follows:

This organization exists for the whole purpose of assisting in the Job Accommodation Process. Use them!

That said, that will be all for l, today. Tune in tomorrow for tips on how to utilize JAN to your advantage.

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