Cal Poly supports the employment of faculty and staff with disabilities. When an employee requests accommodation or there is evidence that an employee may need accommodation due to a covered disability, the campus will explore reasonable accommodation options that will allow the employee to perform the essential assigned duties of their position.
Request for Accommodation
If you have a disability or become disabled, and you need an accommodation in the workplace, submit a Request for Accommodation and Medical Certification.Request for Accommodation ADOBE SIGN
Medical Certification PDF
Cal Poly Human Resources will review your request and medical certification and, in most cases, will engage you and your appropriate administrator in an “interactive process” to discuss possible workplace accommodations. A workplace accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way in which a job is usually done that enables an individual with a disability, who is otherwise qualified to perform a job, to attain the same level of performance and to enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment.
The process for requesting and obtaining an employment accommodation is governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended, and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Please make all requests early. This process may take several weeks to complete, depending on how soon we receive your information and the necessary documentation from your physician. Please note that all accommodations are individualized based on your disability and the nature of your job. An exploration of possible accommodations is achieved via an initial appointment. HR or Academic Personnel-approved accommodations are reached in consultation with both the employee and the appropriate administrator in their department. We will make every effort to provide a reasonable accommodation for individuals with qualified disabilities; however, it is not always possible for the university to accommodate the employee’s preferred accommodation, and in some cases the university is unable to accommodate an employee’s medical restrictions and functional limitations.
How to Request an Employment Accommodation
In completing this Medical Certification, your physician/treatment provider should review your position description (“HR 120”) in order to determine with you which essential functions need accommodating. (For Faculty, see CFA‐CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement Article 20 (Workload).)
The Medical Certification should describe the nature of your disability (temporary or permanent), details of your functional limitations or work restrictions, and suggestions for potential reasonable accommodations at the workplace. Please ask your provider not to disclose your medical diagnosis. (HR requires your provider to answer all questions contained in this form, either on the form itself or on other paperwork.)
Complete and submit your Request for Employment Accommodation Form and attach your Medical Certification completed by your doctor.Request for Accommodation ADOBE SIGN
HR will ensure that your forms are complete and will forward your request and documentation to the appropriate HR or AP personnel.
HR or AP will evaluate whether you are a “qualified individual with a covered disability.” If so, HR/AP will review how the accommodation request relates to the essential functions of your job, consulting with the appropriate administrator as necessary. When consulting with your administrator, HR will share only the information necessary to understanding the request.
Participate in the interactive process.
In most cases, HR or AP will host an interactive process meeting with you and your appropriate administrator to discuss your functional limitations or work restrictions, the essential functions of your position, and possible accommodations.
Cal Poly will evaluate the reasonableness of accommodations explored.
If Cal Poly HR/AP and the department determine that an employee-requested accommodation is reasonable, it should be implemented as soon as possible and a Letter of Temporary or Permanent Accommodation will be issued. If the proposed accommodation(s) is unreasonable or presents undue hardship, HR/AP will notify the employee and try to arrive at a mutually agreeable alternative to the proposed accommodation.
What is Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable Accommodation is any adjustment to a work environment or job that allows an employee (i.e., staff, faculty, student employee) to perform the essential functions of the job in question. The purpose of an accommodation is to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Accommodation options that can be explored include, but are not limited to:
- Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by the disabled employee;
- Modifying work schedules;
- Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices;
- Providing qualified readers or interpreters; and
- A temporary assignment of alternative duties.
Other options, such as a leave of absence or reduced schedule, may be available and should be evaluated in light of what is permitted under policy and contract.
In evaluating the reasonableness of an accommodation, HR/AP and the appropriate administrator will:
- Take the employee's expressed preferences into consideration.
- Evaluate whether the employee can perform the job safely.
- Assess the effectiveness of the accommodation(s) in enabling the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
- Assess the operational needs of the department, considering issues such as:
- The number of persons employed in the department;
- The number, type and locations of the units within the department;
- The type of operation, including the composition, structure, and functions of its workforce, its geographic separateness, and the administrative relationship of the department to the campus;
- The impact of the accommodation on the operation of the department, including the impact on the ability of other employees to perform their duties and the impact on the department's ability to conduct business;
- The nature of the accommodation;
- The overall financial resources of the campus;
- The impact of the accommodation on campus operations.
If a Department, in conjunction with HR/AP, determines that an employee-requested accommodation is reasonable, the accommodation should be implemented as soon as possible. It is important to understand that engaging in the Interactive Process and deciding on a Reasonable Accommodation(s) is an on-going process. What may be an appropriate accommodation at one point in time may need to be reassessed if:
- The original accommodation was a "transitional accommodation," that is it was intended for a specifically defined purpose and time period has elapsed;
- The position duties change;
- The environment changes;
- The employee indicates that a new accommodation may be necessary; and/or
- Other factors suggest that a new accommodation is needed and it is time to re-initiate the interactive process.
FAQs and Legal Terminology
How is Disability defined?
An individual is considered to be disabled if he/she:
- Has a permanent physical or mental impairment that limits the performance of one or more major life activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
What is a Major Life Activity?
Major life activities are functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. With regard to reasonable accommodation, primary attention is given to those life activities that affect the ability to perform one’s essential job functions, or otherwise present a barrier to employment or advancement.
What is an Essential Function?
Essential function means the fundamental job duties of the employment position. For example, for a position as a proofreader, the ability to read documents accurately (with or without a reasonable accommodation) is an essential function because that is the reason the position exists. Additionally, a job function may be essential because of the limited number of employees available to perform the function, or among whom the function can be distributed.
What is a Functional Limitation?
A functional limitation is the inability to perform an action or a set of actions because of a physical or mental restriction. Determining whether a functional limitation exists due to a physical or mental disability or medical condition is the first step in establishing whether an individual is entitled to a reasonable accommodation.
What is the Interactive Process?
The Interactive Process is the way in which employees, supervisors, and their departments arrive at a reasonable accommodation. The law requires that the employer and the employee engage in a timely, good faith communication process to identify what the employee’s limitations are as related to the essential job functions and consider what reasonable accommodations exist which may effectively enable the employee to complete the essential functions of the job. Both the employer and the employee participate in the interactive process.
How does the Interactive Process work?
If a disability prevents an employee from performing one or more essential job functions, the Department and the employee, in consultation with HR (and Academic Personnel for academic employees), should begin the interactive process.
- Evaluating the employee's functional abilities and limitations
- Analyzing the job requirements
- Exploring options available for an accommodation
Upon receipt of the Employment Accommodation Request Form and Medical Certification, HR creates a confidential file. Your employee accommodation file is kept in a secure location, separate from official personnel or HR files. You are not required to provide supervisors, managers, or department heads/chairs with any specific information pertaining to your disability. However, your appropriate administrator will be informed of the minimum amount of information necessary in order to engage in the interactive process and discussions about your functional limitations and how possible accommodations may be practicable for the department. If an accommodation is approved, you and the department will be provided with a copy of your Reasonable Accommodation Letter.
What if my medical condition or functional limitations change?
If a granted accommodation is not effective or the limitations change necessitating a different accommodation, the employee shall inform Human Resources which would then continue the interactive process.
What if my reasonable accommodation is not implemented in a timely manner?
Contact Human Resources.
How do I learn more or begin the process?
For Staff and MPP Employee inquiries, please contact Shelly Geismann:
Disability Programs Analyst-Specialist
For R03 Employee (faculty, librarians, counselors, and coaches) inquiries, please contact Kathryn Rummell:
Interim Associate Vice Provost for Academic Personnel
Professor of English
- How is Disability defined?
FAQs about Disability Accommodation Related to COVID-19
If I want to seek a medical exemption to the coronavirus vaccine requirement, do I go through the process for requesting a disability accommodation?
No, the process for seeking a medical exemption to the coronavirus vaccine requirement is separate from the process for requesting a disability accommodation.
If I have a medical exemption to the coronavirus vaccine requirement, do I get to telecommute?
A medical exemption to the vaccine requirement does not confer a disability accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or any special allowances to telecommute. Whether you are unvaccinated or vaccinated, if you have a medical or psychological disability for which you require a disability accommodation, proceed through the process for requesting a disability accommodation.
If I am unvaccinated for any reason, do I have a right to disability accommodations?
Being unvaccinated does not confer any additional rights or privileges. Unless you have a covered disability and receive a disability accommodation, you will be required to complete the essential functions of your position without accommodation and you will be required to abide by additional regulations and safety measures, likely to include COVID testing at regular intervals, physical distancing, and PPE.
If I live with and am the primary caretaker for a vulnerable person (parent, partner, child), may I obtain an accommodation to telecommute?
The ADA and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provide for a right to accommodations only for individuals with disabilities, not for their caretakers. Therefore, you will not be eligible for an accommodation in order to care for family members.
However, if you are the primary caretaker for a qualifying family member, you may be eligible for leave. The Family Medical Leave Act provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (while taking this leave you would be required to draw down any sick leave or vacation balances) which can be used to care for parents, partners, children, and a number of other qualifying close family members. Additionally, various Covid-Related Leave and Pay programs have been availalbe at times. For more information see the COVID-Related Leave and Pay Programs webpage
Additionally, if your appropriate administrator determines that it is operationally feasible for you to complete the full duties and scope of your position through telecommuting, this may be an option to you separate and apart from any disability accommodation. Telecommuting arrangements must be formalized on the new Telecommute Agreement (Rev. 2021) and approved by the divisional Vice President and HR. The new Telecommuting Guidelines are available here.
In 2020 or 2021, I had an accommodation or light duty assignment due to my vulnerability to COVID, and my doctor’s note extended all the way through 2021. Why do I need to go through the process for requesting a disability accommodation?
We are requiring anyone who had a COVID-related medical accommodation in the workplace and has an ongoing need for an accommodation beyond September 1, 2021, or their department’s return to campus date, to submit a request for accommodation and updated medical certification. The reason for this is that conditions have changed and we need to determine who is presently qualified for an accommodation under the ADA or FEHA and what types of accommodations each department and work unit can reasonably accommodate given the repopulation of campus, staffing, and other resources.
I am uncomfortable working in close proximity to coworkers who I know or believe are unvaccinated. Can I get an accommodation or do anything?
The ADA and FEHA do not provide for accommodations to avoid working with unvaccinated coworkers. However, you are protected by Cal/OSHA standards and campus safety regulations. If you have any concerns about your coworkers violating safety rules or regulations, bring your concerns immediately to your supervisor and central HR.
Additionally, you may request adjustments to your working conditions such as working at a different workstation or a particular schedule. Although you don’t have a right to these adjustments, your manager is responsible for considering if these adjustments are feasible and would improve your situation, and if so may approve such requests.
- If I want to seek a medical exemption to the coronavirus vaccine requirement, do I go through the process for requesting a disability accommodation?
Managers and Supervisors
The Interactive Process can begin in a number of ways. However, unless the disability or the need for accommodation is obvious, it is the responsibility of the employee to inform the supervisor that an accommodation is needed in order to perform the essential job functions, or to receive equal benefits and privileges of employment. The employee does not have to formally notify the supervisor or department in writing. A verbal request for accommodation should be considered to trigger the interactive process. When the disability or the need for accommodation is obvious, the supervisor should inquire whether the employee has a need for assistance.
An employee should not be asked whether they have a disability or any other question about their medical condition. However, in keeping with the spirit of the interactive process, an employee who is struggling to adequately perform should be asked if there is any type of assistance that might enable the employee to better perform their job functions and, along with other material describing employee support resources (e.g., Cal Poly EOD), the employee should be given information about campus policies/procedures applicable to employees with disabilities.
If the employee requests a workplace adjustment that the supervisor could and would make without there being a medical basis, such as ergonomic equipment or a standing desk, or rest breaks at precise times, the supervisor may simply provide such an adjustment without reference to whether the request is disability-related. Or, the supervisor may ask if the assistance is being requested as an accommodation to a disability, and if the response is affirmative, proceed under the Cal Poly procedures for accommodating employees with disabilities.
You may qualify for family medical leave to care for yourself or a family member with a serious medical condition.
Civil Rights & Compliance Office – Campus 504/ADA Coordinator
The Director of Equal Opportunity serves as the Campus 504 / ADA Coordinator, assuring compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.
Disabled Parking at Cal Poly
A valid campus parking permit and a valid disabled placard or license plate is required to utilize ADA spaces on campus.
- Disability Leaves
(Rev. July 2021)